Follow TV Tropes


Comic Book / The Nice House On The Lake

Go To

How do you think the world will end?
— Walter

The Nice House on the Lake is a 2021 horror comic written by James Tynion IV, with art by Alvaro Martinez Bueno and Jordie Bellaire. It is published by DC Black Label.

Ryan Cane is a 26-year-old artist living in New York City alongside her circle of friends. One summer, she is invited by a friend named Walter to stay with ten of their other friends at a nice house on the lake.

The house isn't just nice, it's really nice. Owned-by-a-millionaire nice. And Walter has given Ryan and her friends nicknames and symbols — Ryan's is THE ARTIST, while Norah Jakobs is THE WRITER, David Daye is THE COMEDIAN, Molly Reynolds is THE ACCOUNTANT, Veronica Wright is THE SCIENTIST, Sam Nguyen is THE REPORTER, Arturo Perez is THE ACUPUNCTURIST, Sarah Radnitz is THE CONSULTANT, Naya Radia is THE DOCTOR, and Rick MacEwen is THE PIANIST. Only Walter doesn't have a nickname.

As the night goes on and they party beside the pool, however, Ryan begins to realize something is wrong. Something has happened in New York City — people are burning to death spontaneously. Their skin is sloughing off, their eyes melting in their sockets. People are dying and nobody knows why.

As everyone prepares to leave the house, however, Ryan realizes this is why Walter brought them there. Walter tells them they can't leave — he loves them, so he has made sure to spare them from the genocide his people are doing. They will survive the apocalypse...but they can't leave the house on the lake. Ever.

Tropes in The Nice House on the Lake:

  • Affably Evil: Walter tells his friends that he genuinely loves them, which is why he is saving them...but the rest of the world is going to die.
  • All There in the Manual: A subtle example from the Collected Edition, with the Chapter Page for the final issue revealing that Walter does indeed have a symbol and nickname: he's The Engineer, referencing both his job and his role in bringing the group together and manipulating them to keep them alive.
  • Amicable Exes: Norah and Veronica, and Walter and Ryan.
  • Anachronic Order: The opening of each chapter features one of the characters talking about the first time they met Walter while making their way through an apocalyptic hellscape. It then flashes back to that character and Walter prior to the events of the main story, before finally switching to the main storyline itself.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The Ryan from the present day is wearing bandages on her face and holding a spear, indicating something bad has happened. She also puts on a N95 respirator, indicating that perhaps there is something toxic in the air...until we get to the beginning of the story and see that she already had the respirator due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
  • Batman Gambit: It's revealed in the final issue of Cycle One that the plan to make the housemates ultimately accept their situation in the house isn't Walter's at all; it's Norah's, and she devised it based on her ability to predict how the group would react to the situation, and what scenarios would lead them to a path of ultimate acceptance. Walter is initially hesitant to use her plan, but after his own attempts to get them on board utterly fail (which Norah also predicted), he agrees to try it her way. And it works.
  • Becoming the Mask: Walter was given a human form and enough human emotions so that he could reasonably select candidates for the House, not so that he could form real relationships with them—he was supposed to pick good candidates, not people he liked. But instead he came to enjoy his life as Walter and love his friends, and picked them because he loves them. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to make him not go through with the whole flesh-tornado-apocalypse thing.
  • Big Fancy House: The book is, after all, called The Nice House on the Lake. It's really nice and includes pretty much everything the characters could want, including a movie theatre. Of course, Walter did this because he knew that they could never leave.
  • Body Horror: Walter's constantly shifting horror of a head.
  • Double Meaning: A lot of the flashbacks show Walter doing this quite accidentally in conversation, decrying how there's only space for so many people, how he wished there was more time, etc. Naturally, his friends just assume he's referring to his relationships with others (only space for so many in his life, more time to spend with those he loves, etc.), a viewpoint that Walter (having realised what he just said) goes along with. Many of these flashbacks serve as slight Eureka Moments and Once More, with Clarity to the characters remembering them, as they realise that they didn't really understand what he actually meant until it was too late.
  • Driven to Suicide: The guests can request items from Walter by writing on a notepad. Molly requests a gun, a rope and then a straight razor when her requests for her husband and parents alive and well aren't granted. Walter repeatedly refuses these requests, until David gets the razor for her by asking for it on his own notepad. Although it turns out they can't actually die, so it doesn't matter whether she gets the razor or not.
  • Eye Scream:
    • One of the social media posters says his brother was on Twitch when his eyeballs melted. Another mentions that her skin is coming off on her phone screen as she types.
    • Ryan has badly injured/lost her eye by the point of her future narration.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Issue 10. The cover focus is on Naya, making the reader think it's going to be her POV chapter, beginning with the usual apocalyptic reminiscence. Instead, the issue opens with a video of Naya and Rick filming a message for Walter at his birthday party years earlier, before revealing that a depressed Rick is watching said video on his phone, alone in the apocalyptic setting, just as the phone runs out of battery. Sure enough, the issue ends with Naya's death.
  • Framing Device: Each issue begins with one of the guests narrating to the audience in the future. Each of them is dressed in survival gear, some have been badly injured (Rick has burned arms, Ryan has her eye covered etc.), and they are apparently at the burning remains of the House's grounds.
  • Friend Versus Lover: Played with. Back in high school, Walter didn't like Ronnie when pre-transition Norah started dating her, but it wasn't because he was jealous of Norah's time—rather, he already knew there would be limited space at the House, and he didn't want Norah getting attached to someone he couldn't save. (This is, in fact, exactly what happens with Molly.) The entire reason he started to like Ronnie is that he learned she would actually be a great candidate for the House on her own.
  • Hidden Depths: As Walter points out, David can be "pretty stupid" a lot of the time, but he is a remarkably perceptive individual who understands people. David is the first to realise that the guests can't remember how they arrived at the Nice House, and that they can't die. He also gives Molly an empathic speech about her suicidal tendencies.
  • Human Aliens: Walter talks about what his "people" are going to do to the planet, but he appears entirely human. When Norah tries to kill him with a fire poker, however, she slices through his head, but it appears to completely replace itself within seconds.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Sam 'the Reporter' is the one most determined to solve the mystery of the House and its separation from the world.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Walter can simply make people forget things. He's mindwiped his friends before when he accidentally said too much to them, and he mindwipes them again after they find Reg and Reg tries to convince them they can break out of the House and save the world.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Walter, who plays the group off against each other to make them stay calmly at the House. Sam even suspects that Walter created the mysterious statues and dark block as a mystery to deliberately distract the group, rather than it being an actual clue to their situation.
  • Mortality Ensues: An utterly tragic and accidental example. When Ryan gets into the interface, she tries to figure out how to disable the healing factor setting for Walter, and ends up turning it off for everyone. Unfortunately, she does this as the others are outside taking turns shooting each other, and just as Rick shoots Naya, resulting in her death.
  • No-Sell: Norah hits Walter across the face with a fire poker. It bisects his head, but then his head just puts itself back together again. Meanwhile, Norah's hand nearly gets torn clean off.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The apocalypse going on outside of the lake house is never shown visually, but the description "flaming meat tornadoes" doesn't exactly conjure up comforting imagery.
  • Reality Warper: The interface that Walter uses to control the house and everything in it seems to be capable of this, able to conjure practically anything the housemates want, construct entire buildings, and bestow a Healing Factor upon them as well as selectively remove or restore memories. It's limitations haven't yet been shown, but it's undeniably a powerful piece of tech.
    • It turns out that one hard limit is that it can't bring back the dead.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Walter wears these, making him appear sinister.
  • Shout-Out: In Issue 4, David is wearing Ferris Bueller's Iconic Outfit, having apparently requested it from Walter via the notepad.
  • Spanner in the Works: Ryan. When Reg refused to cooperate with Walter close to the crunch date, Walter imprisoned him, but didn't have the heart to let him die. This forced Walter to bring Ryan in as a backup for "the Artist", while keeping Reg imprisoned on the property, putting the total guests at 11- one above the set maximum.
  • Spontaneous Human Combustion: How the end of the world happens, apparently. Ryan sees through social media that people are just going up in flames. There are bigger firestorms, too, but they are probably caused by people on fire. The reason for this is Walter's "people" — one social media post even says "THERE IS SOMETHING IN THE SKY BEHIND THE FIRE. LOOK BEHIND THE FIRE, AT THE COLOR THAT HURTS YOUR EYES."
  • Trans Tribulations: Norah being trans isn't usually a source of angst, but towards the end of Cycle One it's revealed that she feels Walter never fully got over the fact she's not the "boy" he had a crush on in high school and hasn't really accepted her, on top of her realization about how much he's manipulated her entire life from the moment they met. Walter also transparently uses her dysphoria to manipulate her into helping him by offering her access to the reality controls that can alter the guests' physical forms.
  • True Companions: Walter considers the guests to be his, which is why he gathered them at the house; they’re the parts of humanity he considers worth saving.