We call this feature “Weekend Escape” because the idea is that the weekend is a good time to “escape” into a great comic book. But of course, usually the term refers to a different type of escape—a weekend getaway that offers a brief break from the mundaneness of everyday life. Personally, I like the comic book version of it better, at least after reading the first volume of James Tynion IV and Álvaro Martínez Bueno’s truly chilling The Nice House on the Lake, which tells the story of a lakeside vacation that soon becomes something far more horrific. And while you might not want to read it if you happen to have any similar trips planned for you and your friends in the near future, it’s hard to think of a better choice for any comic fan looking for something scary to read this Halloween weekend.
Ten people accept an invitation from their friend Walter to spend a week at a lake house in Wisconsin. It’s a slightly strange invite—most of them haven’t spoken to Walter in years and the identities of the other guests are shrouded in secrecy prior to everyone’s arrival—but things seem well enough at first. The guests realize that they all know each other through their history with Walter in high school, college or just as part of the New York social scene. Also, the house is beautiful, with idyllic views of the lake and surrounding woods and no shortage of amenities. However, it doesn’t take long for things to take an unexpected—and very dark—turn.
Now, if you know nothing about this series and what you’ve read so far has enticed you enough to check it out, I’d stop reading right now. Seriously. The less you know about this story, the more you’ll enjoy it, and I’m about to ruin the issue #1 twist. But if you want to know more, read on…
Their first night at the house, the ten guests learn that the entire rest of the world has been destroyed. It’s not nuclear war, it’s something different and arguably worse. And Walter, who isn’t as human as everyone thought, has something to do with it. The ten guests invited to Walter’s nice house on the lake seem to be humanity’s last survivors, and they’re now prisoners of whomever—or whatever—is responsible.
Let’s Talk Talent:
This is the second week in a row we’ve highlighted a James Tynion comic and while that wasn’t deliberate, it makes sense. Tynion may be best known among DC fans for his work on Batman, but over the past few years, he’s also really built a reputation for himself as one of the best horror comic writers out there. Most of Tynion’s horror comics have been for other publishers, but The Nice House on the Lake is an interesting and particularly strong exception. Tynion is at his most imaginative, relatable and experimental here, utilizing a unique story structure and occasional “found” objects, like transcripts, written notes or emails, to help drive the narrative.
His creative partner, Álvaro Martínez Bueno, is nothing short of a revelation. Martínez Bueno isn’t new to comics or to working with Tynion, the pair also collaborated on Detective Comics and Justice League Dark, but The Nice House on the Lake is the perfect showcase for his talent at blending both the highly real with the surreal and strange. Crucial details reside within his art, offering readers plenty of reasons to slow down and savor what’s on the page. Martínez Bueno also provides the series covers, which are rendered much more realistically than the interiors and put the book’s characters at its forefront. Absolutely spectacular stuff.
A Few Reasons to Read:
- The Nice House on the Lake is one of the very rare DC Black Label books that doesn’t feature established DC characters. It’s reminiscent of the stories Vertigo might have told once upon a time—strange, mysterious, frightening and sometimes a little sexy. If you’re an old school Vertigo fan and have missed its unique brand of mature-readers storytelling, this is absolutely for you.
- I’ve been framing this as a horror book and there are some frightening things in it, but really, it’s more of a supernatural mystery. Think Black Mirror or even Lost. Lots of questions abound about the nature of the house the guests are trapped in and what exactly Walter is and answers arrive at a deliberate pace. If horror tends to turn you off, you may be surprised by how much you still enjoy The Nice House on the Lake.
- Each of the book’s ten guests is assigned a unique, cleverly designed symbol and an enigmatic moniker straight out of a mystery novel that represents them within the house and around the lake. (You can see them all on the covers of the Nice House periodicals—the symbol that’s highlighted is the POV character for that issue, which changes in each one.) I’m guessing Martínez Bueno designed these, but whoever did, props to them. They’re fun.
- Have you already read The Nice House on the Lake? Well, how about I offer a case for rereading it. When reading Vol. 1 a second time, I discovered at least a dozen fascinating details that I’d either missed or had completely forgotten about. This is largely due to Martínez Bueno’s detailed art. Seriously, make sure you spend some time taking it in.
Why It’s Worth Your Time:
Both Tynion and Nice House itself were 2021 Eisner winners, and that’s not surprising to me. I truly think this book will go down as one of the defining comics of this generation and a high point of Tynion’s career. So often, people associate DC with one thing—superheroes. And don’t get me wrong, superheroes are great. But there’s so much more to uncover at DC and with the wide acclaim The Nice House on the Lake has received, it might be the perfect non-superhero book for a DC fan to check out this Halloween season. Just don’t be surprised if it makes you think twice about getting back in touch with any of your friends from high school.
The Nice House on the Lake Vol. 1 by James Tynion IV, Álvaro Martínez Bueno and Jordie Bellaire is available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and as a digital graphic novel. You can also read The Nice House on the Lake on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.
Tim Beedle covers movies, TV and comics for DC.com, writes our monthly Superman column, "Super Here For...", and is an occasional contributor to the Couch Club, our recurring television column. Follow him on Twitter at @Tim_Beedle.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Tim Beedle and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.