Advance Review: ‘Home Sick Pilots’ #1 Is A Bold, Brash Genre-Bending Original Take On Haunted House Horror

by Olly MacNamee

Summary

A new kind of haunted house horror from Dan Watters and Caspar Wijngaard that oozes style and strong storytelling. A 90s’ neon-horror that’s first issue is a strong opener for this ongoing Image Comics’ series.

Overall
10/10
10/10

We all have our favourite haunted house stories and films, don’t we? There’s a rather diverse selection out there. And, having read the first feisty issue of Dan Watters and Caspar Wijngaard’s Home Sick Pilots #1 I wonder how many readers will make this one of their new favourites in the near future, given what a strong impression it makes.

Set in the mid nineties, the series takes its name from the punk rock band wanting to out do their rivals and put on an illegal gig at the local haunted house, a “house that kills people.”

Our focal character for this debut issue, at least, is band member Amida who, bizarrely enough, seems to be having symbiotic relationship with the haunted house in the opening pages of this freshman issue, causing all kind of questions from the off and pulling the readers into the book immediately. That’s if Wjingaard’s slick, sexy art doesn’t. A haunted house that’s also a mecha? That’s some genre bending right there. Visually it works, and is a bold, brash image for a bold, brash book. It’s a rather magnificent balls-to-the-wall opener that will have you hooked and not the only artistic stand out moment in this book.

As our central character we learn enough about Amida to recognise a troubled child when we see one. In more ways than one, but definitely “troubled” in a Danny Torrence (The Shining) kind of way too. But, this is still a story to be told another day, although it is hinted at enough here. 

We get a good look at the house in a double pager that dissects the building so that each room acts as a separate panel of the story through which our snotty punkers wander though in search of the now missing Amida. Another one of those stand-out artistic moments in this labour of love. The inclusion of all blacked out pages with just Amida’s narrative that are dotted across the first issue only adds a further slow burning tension in this issue. 

And, after a good deal of scene setting and character establishment it’s a fatal trip to this haunted house that ratchets up the action and the horror, something reflected in Wijngaard’s stripped-back colours in these violent scenes. Watters is clearly a fan of this particular horror sub-genre which has been given a nineties neon-glow to it all that really works. Add into this a time when punk rule the world and the airwave thanks to the success of breakout bands like Green Day, Bad Religion and to some extend NoFX, and you have an era-appropriate horror story with tonnes of style and substance.

A very promising opening chapter that threatens to do something very different with this horror sub-genre and something very new. 

Olly MacNamee

A unashamed DC Comics fan and sometime teacher for over 20 years! I got lucky and found the escape hatch. Now, I just read and write about comics all day long. Co-host of the ICE-Cast podcast and one third of the brains behind Birmingham's street art and graffiti festival High Vis Fest.

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