Home Sick Pilots is a new horror series from Image Comics that not only has a great name but a great premise. If you read the Home Sick Pilots #1 preview, this is a haunted house story with a punk rock twist like you’ve never seen before. The haunted house concept has been done in different ways before, but here creators Dan Watters, Caspar Wijngaard, and Aditya Bidikar have taken it to another level entirely.
This book opens with quite the dramatic entry set in the fictional Santa Manos in 1994. A calm sunset is disturbed by a house glowing pink and coming alive with appendages, crashing down on suburban homes with great destruction. This is a haunted house that is not self-contained, but a threat to everyone. From that idea buds much of what makes Home Sick Pilots work so well, as it captures the nature of teens keeping things inside to the point where they are boiling over.
A keen sense of the teenage experience wouldn’t work without good characters, and this series has them in droves. Its main characters make up the band Home Sick Pilots and they go by the names Rip, Buzz, and Ami. Opposing them is a rival band called The Last Nuclear Bastards. Through interactions between these two groups, we get a good sense of who these people are and by extension, you may find yourself relating to them as their personalities are familiar.
This first issue has an excellent tempo measured by a few all-black pages with white captions that slow everything way down and force the reader to contemplate. These work well for dramatic effect, but also in how they draw you into Ami’s perspective. These quiet moments help package the already fluid and well-told visual story on the page. Wijngaard has incredible layout design throughout the issue — long, but thin panels draw out the words and a moment, and the reuse of a single background across panels draw in your attention to the house, speeding up or slowing down the reader’s attention. There is a fascinating double page layout that draws the eye in an unconventional way that’s a bit of a showstopper, too. There’s also a neat white stroke around characters in some panels that lifts them off the page.
The use of coloring is also quite creative, with bright pinks, cool blues, and stark contrasts that help convey the shattering of reality where needed. There is a retro vibe to the book, and that largely is due to the color choices. You also see it in Tom Muller’s title treatment which has a spraypaint feel that’s certain, but also slapped on and filled with angst.
Lettering by Aditya Bidikar, and position of word balloons and captions, enhance the experience as well. It’s always fun to see a screaming character get embellished lettering, but there is a resolute and assuredness in these letters thanks to position and bolding choices.
Many horror comics these days hold back a bit when it comes to gore or jump scares, but Home Sick Pilots doesn’t disappoint in this area either. In fact, this first issue delivers a lot on its first go, starting with the usual character introductions but taking the concept of the haunted house much further than one might expect. That includes victims, but also a concept that flips the entire idea of the haunted house on its head.
Home Sick Pilots is a wildly inventive twist on the haunted house concept, wrapped in a blanket of strong characters, great art, and a measured sense of timing. It also harnesses a mystery in its concept that’ll have you coming back for more. In many respects, Home Sick Pilots will have you walking on a razor’s edge of electrifying, scary, inspiring, and gripping emotions. It’s a dangerous new entry from all its creators.
With the final order cutoff today, it’s recommended fans contact comic shops now as it might sell out when it releases in comic book shops on December 9th.
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