Paper Girls meets The Shining along the darker alleyways of Nineties nostalgia in Dan Watters and Caspar Wijngaard’s Home Sick Pilots from Image Comics.
Turning over the cover to Dan Watters and Caspar Wijngaard’s new ongoing series from Image Comics, we are opening a doorway into a world both familiar yet strangely terrifying. Before any words can be scanned by our eyes, our attention is immediately pulled into a beam of red light like the Eye of Sauron emanating from a spooky old house. With that single half-page image, the stage is set for a new kind of horror tale, in which a house stalks the streets of California in search of its lost ghosts that once haunted its floorboards and kept the local teens away, through its horrifying facade and more horrifying reputation.
It’s uncertain if some of the events that unfold within the first three pages are happening in real life, but that seems to be a running theme though this first issue of Home Sick Pilots. The story revolves around the titular high school band and its rivalry with another high school band, The Nuclear Bastards. But when Ami, one of the Pilots, goes missing, her bandmates Rip and Buzz head up to the old “house that kills people” on the hill of their hometown to find her. While inside, strange things begin to occur, slipping a chill into the spines of the Home Sick Pilots, but there’s no sign of Ami anywhere. But that may be because Ami is not at home, though the house itself may be quite at home in her.
Home Sick Pilots has been called a lot of things amid a rash of early industry praise: Power Rangers meets The Shining, The Haunting of Hill House meets Papers Girls, and the like. I’d wager the opinion that it’s closer to Paper Girls meets The Shining, and much like the Stephen King novel (or more accurately, the 1980 movie version), Home Sick Pilots adds its own unique flair to the horror genre by way of the concept of a haunted house searching for the spirits that once occupied its halls and now occupy them no more. Like Stanley Kubrick’s film, this comic book takes chances, both with Watters’ snappy storytelling and especially Wijngaard’s artwork, which is certainly reminiscent of Cliff Chiang’s work on Paper Girls, particularly by way of his use of color, which is gorgeous and makes scenes pop even while the story itself is set in a darker vision of the Nineties than what most modern day nostalgiacs might dictate.
Whatever comparisons you need to make between Home Sick Pilots and similar media is irrelevant, though. This premiere issue is proof enough that it should be a welcome addition to your pull lists. It is a fond rekindling of a long gone decade mixed with a finely paced narrative of horror and high school band rivalry that paves the way for even more mystery and adventure ahead.
Dan Watters (W), Caspar Wijngaard (A), Aditya Bidikar (L), Tom Muller (D) • Image Comics, $3.99
Review by John T. Trigonis