Advance Review: ‘Home Sick Pilots’ #3 Is A Wonderfully Evocative And Haunting Read

by Olly MacNamee

Ami continues to try and help out the haunted house she seems intrinsically linked to by hunting down borrowed objects and returning them. Or, is it more the case that this house with a dark past has hold of her? Whatever the house’s hold on her, she continues to haunts her bandmates for afar, knowing that she doesn’t want her friend getting involved in the mess she now finds herself in. All the time worries that the house is changing her. And not for the better.

Home Sick Pilots #3

It’s not the only creepy thing going on either in this small West coast town. For one thing, rival gang to the Home Sick Pilots, Nuclear Bastards have gone missing. Or, have they got a god supporting Metallica? Er, no. Did you not read the past two issues? And then there’s the more real-life horror of substance abuse too that’s carefully creeping into the story. 

Intertwined with the ongoing story of the individual members of the Homes Sick Pilots is a rather spot on capturing of the spirit of the mid-90’s era too. An era when punk exploded across the West Coast and then the world. Like the Exploited sang, “Punks Not Dead” (sic). Knowing writer Dan Watters has a keen interest in the punk music and punk scene of that era, as do I, I think it’s fair to say that he recaptures this moment in time wonderfully. Setting it on the West Coast and the epicentre of the punk rock renaissance brought about by bands from that part of the world –  Bad Religion, NOFX and Green Day – could have been a risky move coming from a Brit, but it’s clear his involvement in that scene, even here in England, has given him experienced insight into American sub-culture. Write about what you know and all that, right? Indeed, it’s something he and artist Caspar Wijngaard spoke to me previously abut here. He even gets the cop violence against the West Coast punks down pat too. Years of soaking up Social Distortion tracks will do that to you. 

Yes this is a comic that does a mean line in supernatural suspense. And Ami really does come across as an ethereal punkier version of the archetypal ghost with a mission to complete. But, there have already been hints at something for more complex than simply a rerun of an archetype, but with dyed hair. One senses her story is only just beginning.

But it’s also a comic that captures that special time in everyone’s youth that foreshadows the world of adulthood and responsibility. And a time when rebellion is in your heart and soul and a bong in your hand. This issue gives us more on Ami’s other band mates and how they’re coping with the knowledge of a haunted house that has killed the Nuclear Bastards and the loss of Ami, who they have no clue about.

Of course, this era would not be half as evocative as it is on the printed page if not for the graphically gorgeous artwork of Wijngaard, who also shares a love for the music of the era. Wijngaard has a very cool, clean distinctive style, but when he needs to turn up the horror, he is no slouch. The contrast between the cleaner lines of sun-soaked suburban America and the grubbier, jagged line work when we visit the omnipresent haunted house gives this horror story a very distinct look. Michael Mann does Amityville Horror.

Inventive as ever with his framing of shots and offering up a colour scheme of dominated by sunset and twilight colours only helps in the evocation of this era, this moment. Darkening as bandmate, Buzz returns to the house alone. Offering up a little bit more of the jigsaw that is the house’s backstory. The black, scratchy pages that once again intrude into matters only add to the sense of impending doom. That and other events that occur in the house which will leave you gasping. Gasping for more.

Home Sick Pilots #3 is out Wednesday 10th February from Image Comics.

If you want to know more about this era of punk rock, I would recommend the book Smash: The 90s Punk Explosion by Ian Winwood, available now. A recount of the return of punk from those who were there, including interviews with members of Bad Religion, The Offspring, NOFX and more!

And catch up on our Home Sick Pilots coverage so far here.

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