After bringing a touch of horror to Gotham in Batman: Joker War and the ongoing Joker, James Tynion IV breaks free of the bat ‘verse to spin a tale of apocalyptic horror that’s entirely his own. The latest DC Black Label release is this self-contained horror story; part This is the End, part The Invitation, parts unknown. It’s only the first chapter, after all.
Eleven mismatched personalities meet at a luxury isolated mansion, at the behest of their mutual friend, Walter. Walter’s game is slowly revealed as the group settle around the pool for a night of drinking and barbeque. As their social media accounts buzz to life with reports of an apocalyptic firestorm (?) burning the world to cinders, the group begin to realise that, outside, something is going very, very wrong. And that there’s far more to Walter than meets the eye.
The Nice House on the Lake kicks off in terrific fashion, wasting no time in setting up its characters and central hook. There are too many characters to really get to know anyone at this stage – one or two lines of dialogue and a snappy little caption box – but the book’s premise ensures that we’ll be spending plenty of time with them over the following issues. Only time will tell whether they continue to irritate, once the shit hits the fan.
But what is the shit, and where is the fan? Tynion’s big reveal is best left for the comic book itself, which is done through real-time snapshots of Twitter and other social media. Squint too hard and some of the writing comes across as a little cloying, but it’s both effective and efficient. This is the sort of big reveal which will have readers immediately going back to the start to re-read the whole issue all over again.
And, with Martínez Bueno and Jordie Bellaire on art and colours, the book is a treat, however many times one chooses to read it. This house on the lake is more than ‘nice’ – it’s absolutely gorgeous, from the mansion itself to the action and the character work.
Fans of Tynion’s work on Something is Killing the Children and The Department of Truth should welcome this new book – already one of his creepiest to date. For those who only know the writer through Batman, it’s a great gateway to his very particular brand of offbeat comic book horror.