With only one issue to go until its three-month hiatus, The Nice House on the Lake is heading toward a midseason finale of sorts.
Like any good TV show (or serialized comic), that means it’s time to meet a new character and learn quite a bit about our main villain, Walter.
As a reminder…
SPOILERS AHEAD for The Nice House on the Lake #5!
Who Is This Issue About?
Veronica Wright, the Scientist. (If you’re following along at home and need a refresher on who is who in the cast, here’s a handy guide.)
Ronnie was introduced in the first issue as a scientist working for NASA. She mentioned having a telescope in her first line of dialogue and, in this issue, we understand what she’s learned from looking at the stars above Walter’s house on the lake.
Before Walter selected her to join the group, Ronnie was actually Norah’s high school girlfriend. Reticent to accept new friends, Walter disapproved of her at first. When the two finally cleared the air, Walter briefly revealed his true form — in another instance of artist Álvaro Martinez Bueno steeling the show — before Walter mind-wiped her Men in Black-style.
She recovered this memory at the lake, a convenient storytelling choice for Tynion no doubt, but also another instance of Walter’s highly-selective plans for all of the guests. He may be a mass murderer, but his control of them is more akin to a guardian than a warden.
Unlike other spotlight characters, Ronnie does not dominate every scene of this issue and, in some cases, takes a backseat to chattier people like David or Sam. Tynion has been more leisurely with advancing the plot at times, but this issue packs in a lot of dialogue across several busy double-paged spreads. (If you, like me, are astounded by the work Bueno and colorist Jordie Bellaire are doing on this comic, you’ll want to read this great interview Bueno did with David Harper of SKTCHD.)
It’s a credit to Bueno and letterer AndWorld Design that the pace of the issue never slows even as much of it amounts to an info dump. The creative team smartly mixes in diegetic documents — not dissimilar from what the X-line is doing — Ito vary the way information is dispensed. Last issue probably had my favorite example of the form, when characters made a wishlist of items for Walter to retrieve, but the use of a whiteboard here is another fun way to evolve the form.
What Is Walter Up To?
Still leaving clues and hatching schemes.
With Walter mostly off-page for now, it has fallen to the other characters to interpret his actions. One neat thing they discover is how obvious many of Walter’s “secrets” were from their first night in the house. His attack on Norah, seemingly a violent reprisal at the time, may actually have been an attempt to communicate that the houseguests cannot die.
He’s also shown an inclination to work quietly with certain characters, including Rick, toward some unknown aim. Those secret plans get foregrounded at the climax of this issue, which brings another old friend, Reg, into the fold. He was initially a high school pal of Norah, Ronnie, and Walter’s, so it seems like he may have been looped in to an earlier version of Walter’s plan.
Who Else Is Keeping Secrets?
For a while, Sam had not told the group about his discovery of the weird statues and black, glasslike property near the lakehouses. Touching the statues — which also appear in the prologue to issue #1 — produces a vision of the apocalypse ushered in by Walter.
The group finally explores that area and realizes that different statues correspond to the symbol Walter assigned them. (Again, the makings of a confusing, but highly-detailed plan, come to the fore.) Once they arrive, Reg finally emerges and hints at more surprises to come. With one issue to go before the hiatus, I’m sure he is not overstating it.
Odds And Ends
- We have not heard much from Ryan since she was spotlighted in issue #1, but curiously, her symbol (“the Artist”) is the same as Reg’s (“the Painter”).
- There may have been a mistake with the cover for this issue. The fifth symbol is for the Writer, which would suggest this issue be about Norah. But instead, the sixth symbol, Ronnie’s symbol, was highlighted. Maybe there was a reason Norah was skipped? Or perhaps it was a printing error?
- One thing about this series that has flown slightly under the radar is how incredible Bueno has made the covers. This one, showing Ronnie at her telescope while meteors fall from the sky, is especially breathtaking.
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