Tag Archives: James Tynion IV

Random Comic Panel of the Week #38

The Nice House on the Lake (2021, DC Comics) by Álvaro Martínez Bueno, Jordie Bellaire, AndWorld Design, James Tynion IV

Signification and Structure in THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE

There is plenty to write about the debut issue of James Tynion IV and Álvaro Martínez Bueno’s new DC Comics Black Label series The Nice House on the Lake. I could write an essay on the way the trauma of the Covid pandemic is reflected in the issue’s discussion of the end of the world, how the pandemic has laid bear that our society is woefully unprepared for a climate crisis that would require the kind of global cooperation that was outright rejected. Or the way the isolation of the group in the Nice House on the Lake as the world goes up in flames speaks to the existential torment of a year locked inside as millions die.

But all of those things could be true of any story in any medium. And after one issue it is not fair to the story itself to discuss its literary qualities in isolation. This is only the first chapter, after all, as excellent a debut as it may be. While all of these themes and motifs are apparent, what makes The Nice House on the Lake so successful at being an unnerving and visceral experience is its mastery of the art of comic books, leveraging the unique pacing and visual storytelling of the form, its foregrounding of symbols and signs in the narrative, and the exploitation of new cultural norms and experiences.. It is an exceptionally well crafted issue that relies on the reader’s ability to parse the various sign systems and coded imagery employed to create a truly emotionally and psychologically impactful ending.

Continue reading Signification and Structure in THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE

Comics Review: The Joker #1 Explores the Power of The Joker as an Idea

Between last year’s mega Bat-crossover in Joker War, the Oscar award winning film, and an abundance of appearances in various DC media including Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the Joker’s notoriety has never been higher. It is no surprise to see DC capitalize on that cultural cache with a new solo series. The premiere issue is a surprisingly chilling exploration of the Joker as an idea.

Written by James Tynion IV with art by Guillem March and Arif Prianto, the Joker #1 finds the title character the most wanted man in the world following one of his deadliest attacks, shown in the Infinite Frontier one-shot. This new series establishes Joker on the run while his shadow looms large over Gotham City. The villain is physically absent from most of the issue which instead focuses on Jim Gordon looking back on his career in the police force and the way the Joker has haunted his family. Tynion establishes Gordon’s place in the new Infinite Frontier status quo and positions the newly-retired commissioner as worthy of an adversary to the Joker as Batman. 

Tynion admirably weaves a staggering amount of history into the issue without bogging down the narrative. Building from stories in other books is a tricky proposition but he captures the horror of Joker’s attack on Gotham that feels both like an evergreen Batman story and a uniquely horrific escalation. 

The physical absence of Joker from the story is a surprising choice that allows the character’s reputation to imbue the entire issue with a genuine sense of dread. By focusing on Jim Gordon, the most human of Batman’s supporting cast, the stakes and mental toll of Joker’s evil stings in a way that feels fresh despite the character’s exposure.

March’s art effectively channels the suspense of Tynion’s script, with deep shadows and erratic line work that feels as if Joker’s psychosis is seeping in around the edges of every panel. Joker appears as a specter taunting Gordon throughout the issue. Joker is not just a clown or a killer here—he is an all-consuming madness. March is aided by Arif Prianto’s colors which are a mix of gaudy pinks and greens that pointedly clash with the dark tone of the narration and add to the off-kilter feeling the Joker provokes.

The issue is rounded out with a Punchline back-up story by Sam Johns and Mirka Andolfo that is far less effective and mostly impenetrable for new readers unfamiliar with Tynion’s Batman. It is especially disappointing after the strength of the lead feature.

Overall, the premiere issue of the Joker is a moody and cerebral look into the impact and force of the character’s reputation. It remains to be seen whether the series can run with these same themes, with Joker at the center even as other characters propel the story. On its own this is a strong issue that provides a compelling view of Jim Gordon as a man and proves Joker has become a powerful icon in his own right.