The general structure of each issue of The Nice House on the Lake should be well known by now: writer James Tynion IV picks one houseguest, has them deliver a first-person reflection on series villain Walter, and advances the rest of the plot from their perspective.
The comic is at its best when Tynion amps up the unique subjectivity of each guest — really zooming in on details that only they would notice. This issue, which builds to one of the series’ most important moments thus far, is all the better for the way it plays with perspective — and forces the reader to notice things we may have missed.
On that note, let’s get into some spoilers.
SPOILERS AHEAD for The Nice House on the Lake #4!
Who Is This Issue About?
David Daye, the Comedian.
The little we saw of David in earlier issues gave an impression of him as a class clown. Tynion does nothing to dispute that here, but like most wannabe comedians, David’s humor masks a more sorrowful, gnawing truth. “It’s always the jokes that hit a bit too close to the truth that land the flattest,” he notes at one point.
That idea certainly holds true here. David pieces together one of the more startling twists since the start of the series, but hardly anyone realizes how he’s done it. So much of his behavior gets written off as jokes. It isn’t until later that his reasoning becomes clear.
What Is Walter Up To?
Coming up with a much better version of Amazon.
One obvious problem raised by the nature of the house is, well, how is it possible for the guests to keep feeding themselves? Tynion resolves this question with a supernatural twist that speaks to the fondness Walter has for his captive guests.
They each are given a pad of paper to describe their desired items, anything from basic food to “Every Academy Award won by the Lord of the Rings trilogy.” No matter the logistical difficulty, the packages are delivered like clockwork every morning. The only time they aren’t is when a guest tries to scope out the delivery place to see how the packages arrive.
Our best guess is some combination of magic and Walter’s alien technology. In a sublime sequence from artist Álvaro Martinez Bueno and colorist Jordie Bellaire, a flock of birds are shown mutating into the packages. The idea here is not to figure out how the transformation happens, but why Walter wants it this way.
Who Else Is Keeping Secrets?
For a loudmouth, David sure is a careful listener. He pieces together what secrets are being kept by all of the other houseguests — well, almost all of them. (He doesn’t seem to know about Rick’s arrangement with Walter yet.)
But he does call out Norah, Sarah, and Sam, a collection of names that signal this comic’s perhaps only, annoying flaw. It is often very difficult to keep track of the characters’ names. I was not even aware this issue’s main character was named David until the end of the comic.
Tynion, at least, seems aware of this problem and even mentioned it in his newsletter this week. He included a photo that fans may want to bookmark. It includes the names and symbols for each character:
Odds And Ends
- I praised Tynion earlier for letting the subjectivity of each spotlight character determine how their memories (and perception of events) are filtered, but that process equally depends on Bueno and Bellaire. One key example: when David is retelling a story about a person whose name he forgets, Bueno blurs out his face so it’s imperceivable.
- Tynion’s flair for dialogue has been one of the best parts of this comic, but I’m not sure I never need to hear (or read) the phrase “hang dong” again.
- I would not have predicted before the release of this series that “Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men” would serve as an influence, but bear with me: It’s a comic about a faux-idyllic paradise. The characters cannot die. They all have gaps in their memories — similar to how resurrected mutants have a period of time they don’t remember before dying. Maybe I’ve just been reading too many X-comics, but the similar themes were definitely unexpected.
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