HOME SICK PILOTS Review – A Comic Book Bursting with Ghosts and Punk Energy
Brant Lewis describes Home Sick Pilots as the perfect combination of mechas and the paranormal.
Punk holds a special place in my heart. I distinctly remember discovering The Clash in college and being transformed by the energy of “London Calling.” I moved on to bands like X-Ray Spex, The Damned and Bad Religion with their heavy guitars and energetic sound. My love of punk and horror is feircely intertwined. The first issue of Home Sick Pilots feels like the perfect synthesis of punk, gothic horror and the science-fiction subgenre mecha.
The comic series focuses on a teenage punk band in ‘90s California who get involved with the Old James House. Things turn south for the band when Ami, the lead singer, becomes the pilot of the haunted house and is tasked with returning the escaped ghosts. However, the band won't simply need to capture the ghosts—they'll have to pilot the house as a mecha to fight them. The series gets even weirder with the inclusion of a government-backed group of ghost hunters who want to create a military ghost mecha. Despite the wild events that occur, the series sustains an emotional through-line with Ami and her friends, Buzz and Rip.
"We should throw a gig in the house that kills people."
The series is creative, visually distinct and original. There’s a perfect synergy between writer Dan Watters and artist Caspar Wijngaard. The pair recently worked together on the comic book Limbo and effortlessly draw readers in with their combination of narrative artistry.
I was drawn to Home Sick Pilots by its tagline, "Power Rangers meets The Shining." There are elements of the paranormal and Tokusatsu subgenres on a base level because of the mechas and ghosts, but the series pushes beyond that. It scratches the itch for a horror story incredibly well while making the reader feel invested in solving the mysteries of the ghosts and the Old James House. When I first picked it up, I felt a strong connection to the material. It reminded me of the first time I heard "London Calling".
Each ghost is uniquely styled, exuding an air of spine-chilling fear and tragedy. Home Sick Pilots wisely leverages its ghosts to explore the themes of trauma and mental illness. Reminiscent of Mike Flanagan's work and the gothic tradition of a ghost representing more than a wayward spirit. I love a creepy haunted house and the Old James House ticks all my boxes. It’s the rumored haunted house that resides in every town. The house's history feels authentic. It's one we've all heard before. Ami and her friends discuss the local legends and supposed deaths that occured in "the house that kills people". Any who walk the grounds of the Old James House won't walk them alone.
Watters delivers incredibly strong characterizations and it shows in every narrative detail. The writing drives you to care about the band and their friendship. Watters delves into Ami’s backstory, exploring her mental health and the tragedy of her mother’s death. Meg is initially a secondary character that grows with the series and Watters goes to great lengths to ensure the reader understands her journey and viewpoints. I'm continually impressed with the depth of his characters. I genuinely care about them. He has quickly become one of my favorite comic book writers.
Wijngaard's artwork is sublime, gorgeous and has a distinct artistic style that gives the series a stylized retrowave vibe. His focus on blues, pinks and purples, perfectly capture the series dark and vibrant tones. The books are a visual feast.
Aditya Bidikar also deserves praise for the book's lettering—it conveys the story’s emotion and tone exceptionally well. I also adore Tom Muller's design and creative direction. I became familiar with his work with the relaunch of X-Men at Marvel. He excels as one of the best comic designers to date in my opinion. With both the single issues and collected trades, his work provides excellent cohesion between the back covers, inner title pages and logos.
I can’t recommend Home Sick Pilots enough. I'm thirteen issues in and it never fails to deliver the thrill I’m seeking. It's a comic book series that compels me to be first in line at the comic shop to ensure I get a copy. It's one of the most formidable comics I’ve read in a while and I can't wait for the next issue.
Read the first issue of the Image Comics series Home Sick Pilots online!