Writer: Dan Watters
Artist: Caspar Wijngaard
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
WHAT IS IT?
The beginning of the 3rd volume of a haunted house story set against the backdrop of the early '90s California punk scene.
Think SLC Punk meets the Shining with a splash of Godzilla-style monster movies.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Overall, it's a haunted house story about two punk bands from the mid-'90s, the Home Sick Pilots, Ami, Buzz, and Rip, and the Nuclear Bastards, and how their lives changed after going into the Old James House. It is also a story involving government conspiracies, giant robot ghost-powered mechs, and the house that fights the giant robot ghost-powered mechs.
Ami and the Old James House are battling Meg and the Nuclear Bastard, which is powered by the ghosts of all those who died in a nuclear testing site in the 1950s. Meg, the last living member of the Nuclear Bastards, has snapped under the weight of the ghosts powering the Nuclear Bastard and is destroying the city. Buzz and Rip, who are just trying not to die, are tasked with a mission that could save the world. But they'll have to deal with Old James's ghost as a guide.
With so much at stake, will Ami and the Old James House be able to withstand the onslaught of the Nuclear Bastard and its seemingly unending army of ghosts?
Dan Watters puts us right in the mind of Ami as she’s trying to pilot the Old James House with a ton of her inner monologue. Almost the entire first half of the book is her thoughts, and it helps you understand Ami as she feels she isn’t enough to overcome the Nuclear Bastard
Caspar Wijngaard’s art is magnificent. He uses a cartoon-like style that doesn’t feel out of place in the world that they have created. His art does a good amount of heavy lifting in this issue.
Wijngaard does his own colors and what a job he’s doing! The pinks, greens, and blues are working overtime at giving this book an otherworldly, ethereal atmosphere.
Aditya Bidikar uses the word balloons circling around the Old James House as if to give you the feeling of climbing through the haunted house itself.
Waters and Wijngaard build a world with these characters that, while not realistic in the strictest sense of the word, feels very real. You sympathize for each character as they’re just trying to make the best decisions and sometimes, they just don’t work out, no matter how hard they try.
The fight scenes are spectacular, but Ami’s facial expressions when she realizes what she’s up against are some of the best panels in this issue. It's satisfying to see a comic that looks for the small moments and delivers them with the same energy and confidence as the big showstoppers.
While the book might only take place in 15 or so minutes, it’s not rushing at a breakneck pace. Watters’s dialogue and Wijngaard’s art provide a lot of story really efficiently.
There is a punk rock energy in this book, and series for that matter, that has lasted through 11 issues, where most comics would have lost that initial spark in the first 3.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
There are long stretches of dialogue between Ami, piloting the Old James House, and Meg, piloting the Nuclear Bastard, which slows the fight down in the middle of the story.
Wijngaard chooses not to draw the backgrounds into certain panels in a jarring way. In some panels there are buildings, and in others, there aren’t. He makes up for it with great colors, but the buildings showing up and disappearing felt haphazard – your own mileage may vary.
The dialogue towards the end of the book felt a little cheesy in a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers way, but shouldn’t pull readers out of the story.
Aditya Bidikar’s lettering work isn’t getting a huge chance to shine as with previous issues, since most of this issue is Ami’s inner dialogue.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Home Sick Pilots is one of few things that can bring together lovers of Kaiju, horror, and punk without devolving into cheesy B-movie territory. The creative team on this entire series have pulled off an impressive feat of combining the best parts of these genres without it feeling too bloated by each of them.
It’s a ghost story, a coming-of-age story, a Power Rangers-style team-up story, a government conspiracy story, but at the same time, it never gets bogged down with being overcomplicated with all those different styles. Home Sick Pilots takes all of these things that shouldn’t go together and creates a beautiful, but sometimes sad, story. This book, and the series as a whole, has something for everyone.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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