When the world is on fire, and all your friends and family are dead, what is there to live for? That’s something you’ll ponder as you read the excellent The Nice House on the Lake #9. Crafted by writer James Tynion IV and artist Álvaro Martínez Bueno, the series is heating up as Walter continues to struggle to keep his human friends at ease. If you recall, Walter recently wiped their minds when they couldn’t handle knowing that his associates turned Earth into a living Hell. In issue #9, then, his control over the group slips a little further with some intense results.
In issue #8, one of the patrons captured by Walter discovered a message written into a window detailing what was truly going on. As if to create a perfect storm of conflict, Tynion and Bueno reveal that Walter is letting his guard down a bit with another patron. It’s interesting to see how Walter truly wants to do the right thing, and yet he can’t comprehend how these humans could resent this perfect world they’ve been gifted. Meanwhile, with every issue opening on a terrible and burned-out future, one can imagine we’re in for a cataclysmic result of the people’s actions.
Much of the main story in this issue is devoted to the group trying to relax and make the house on the lake truly their own. They’ve built a beautiful structure to allow for therapy, including acupuncture. Walter wants them to be as happy as can be — that’s why he wiped their memories after all — but at each turn, these people can’t seem to relax and enjoy this perfect life.
The thing is, this series has always been about this notion that none of us can ever truly be happy. The horror of the story isn’t necessarily Earth being annihilated by some unknown threat, but the fact that we can’t ever calm ourselves and be at one with our surroundings. We see it in one scene especially, where Walter observes a character when the mention how they miss their life and their work. A long vacation sounds great, but it seems a forever vacation is hell on Earth.
As an episodic story, this issue doesn’t quite have as much bite as previous chapters. It’s still quite good, and you’ll certainly be on the edge of your seat for more by the end, but one of the more compelling scenes plays like any other when the characters cut themselves. It could have been scarier, or gorier, but instead, it all felt a little too matter of fact. As an extension this, the issue also lacks a revelation or two that typically spike your interest — things just sort of happen, really.
Martínez Bueno and colorist Jordie Bellaire knock this issue out of the park. The environment is supposed to be a perfect haven, and yet Bellaire seems to mix colors in a way that makes these spaces feel unnerving and weird. It’s unclear if that’s literal, but either way, it creates a strangeness to the surroundings. In another great double-page spread, Martínez Bueno draws the architecture of a new relaxation area surrounded by big windows. The open room is quite enticing and open, and Bellaire adds hints of colors streaking downward to truly convey the windows. A similar effect works to separate two characters communicating through a window.
The Nice House on the Lake #9 continues to entice its readers with danger and impending doom. Our heroes are slowly discovering that things are far too weird to be taken literally, and Walter is losing his control. Like a powder keg bound to explode, it’s all deliciously building toward utter chaos — and just can’t look away.
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