Each issue of The Nice House on the Lake reads like an event unto itself, which is important for a comic book series limited to 12 issues that still draws natural comparisons to classic sci-fi conspiracy dramas like Lost and The Prisoner. Issue #8 provides the story something of a montage as it builds out the setting, core conflicts, and the cast in an inexact, but "long-enough" period of time to sense that the long-foreshadowed climax is nearing. It's a reminder that even when the series is engaged in table setting, The Nice House on the Lake builds tension and intrigue masterfully with each page turn in one of the most exciting comics mysteries of 2022.
One of the most immediately noticeable elements of the issue is its purposeful development of new spaces in Walter's revised setting. The group requests a number of new structures from their "mysterious keeper" and reader's are provided with a splash page of notes on each new element. Rather than bypassing these sketches offering readers an overhead view as if they were part of the review, these detailed splashes invite consideration of their varied perspectives and returns as these locales appear in the narrative. It seems evident as this subtle tour is being given that this geography will be important in events to come as the inevitable hellish conflict foreshadowed by the red-tinged introductions of each chapter remind readers.
The discussion of these spaces and how they benefit the group evokes the evolving conflict at the heart of this narrative. Walter has transformed himself from a warden of captives to a leader of lost peers. His friends (quite reasonably) want to escape and rebuke Walter's calls for acceptance. The task of capturing and defining the people in his life proves impossible in more ways than one in a keen series of observations on human behavior. Walter's seeming omnipotence shatters when it attempts to mold the personalities at play.
In their presentation, expressions, and lighting, all of the characters trapped in Walter's experiment radiate humanity. It's easy to follow the emotions, large or subtle, of every person in a room, even as the focus of the series regularly shifts. The human dynamics are at play in space as well as individual forms. Ryan's inclusion and placement in gatherings provides a clear sense of isolation and reminds readers of a key line from the first few pages and lacing it with meaning.
Norah remains the beating heart of this story – an individual who grasps the human condition far better than Walter. Her status trapped behind the curtain to observe offers a unique perspective to readers as well, and provides a potent cliffhanger at the end of this extended tour of these characters' collective cage.
However, The Nice House on the Lake is prepared to bridge the gap between the devilish trap being explored in issue #8 and the long-awaited world in flames forecast with each issue, the groundwork laid here promises readers the anticipation will be part of the inevitable fun. Every element of the series continues building suspense as the setting is explored, characters make critical choices, and the conspiracy beneath all of these events grows. It's a gripping experience to read and thrilling to see how each issue builds upon what came before.
Published by DC Comics
On April 19, 2022
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Álvaro Martínez Bueno
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Andworld Design
Cover by Álvaro Martínez Bueno