Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artwork: Alvaro Martinez Bueno
Colours: Jordie Bellaire
Lettering: Andworld Design
Release Date: 1st June 2021
Before I get into this review, it’s worth pointing out that I went into this brand new DC Black Label series completely and utterly blind, armed with little more than its impressive pre-order record and a strong affection for pretty much everything James Tynion IV puts his hand to. And in all honesty, I’d recommend you adopt that approach as well if it’s at all possible. Seriously, the less you know about the premise of this series, the better. Which is, I’ll admit, a bit of an odd opening statement for a review I’m about to write about the first issue of said series, but trust me, go pick up the first issue right now, confident that this is a truly fantastic opening issue – one of the best I’ve read for quite some time, in fact – then come back later and read the rest of the review.
Done? Okay, let’s dig in…
I’m still not going to delve too heavily into spoilers, but the first half of this opening issue introduces us to a wide-ranging cast of characters who find themselves invited to the titular lakehouse. Characters with diverse backgrounds and backstories, but who are all linked together by Walter. Y’see, everyone here knows Walter, whether he’s a recent acquaintance or an old childhood friend. And they’ve all been brought here for… well, they aren’t sure why, but with a house this nice, why wouldn’t you want to accept the invitation?
Tynion does a stellar job of introducing his expansive ensemble cast here through the eyes of Ryan, a young woman who is recounting the events of this fateful night during a bit of a head-scratching cold open. We meet each guest as Ryan arrives at the house on the lake, and gently start to learn their various relationships, histories and baggage as they all settle in. The intriguing nature of the opening leaves a fairly a tense gap between where we are and where it seems we’re going, resulting in an electric series of pages before the jaw-dropping double-page social media splash of a reveal. And I do mean jaw-dropping.
Again, no spoilers, but the execution here, both from Tynion and the impeccable artistic one-two punch of Alvaro Martinez Bueno and the Eisner Award-winning Jordie Bellaire, is nothing short of flawless. The cinematic framing throughout, along with Bellaire’s gradually shifting use of colour as the mundane ‘getting to know you’ chit-chat gives way to something else entirely is incredibly effective, with the final pages of the issue leaving us scrambling as the shock and horror of the situation sinks in.
More than just the aforementioned reveal, Bueno and Bellaire work their magic from the very first page, blending innocuous reality with eyebrow-raising forays into the unknown, slick social media cutaways and a fantastic sense of pacing throughout. It’s a fantastic looking issue for sure, and its grounded, realistic style only serves to make the shocking moments all the more shocking.
Honestly, this is easily the best opening issue to a series that I’ve read for quite some time, and delivers a perfect execution of a high-concept bait and switch that takes something normal and turns it into something else entirely. Most excitingly of all though, this series is getting the longform treatment with no less than twelve (count ’em!) issues, so there’s almost no way of knowing just how far this wild premise is going to be pushed in the months to come. One thing’s for sure though, I’m going to be right there every step of the way to find out, and I strongly recommend you do the same.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]