Home Sick Pilots starts off on an absurd note, as a dilapidated haunted house controlled by the ghost of a teenage girl blasts its way through a California beach town before transforming into a hulking mech-like creature. It's quite the sight, one enhanced by Caspar Wijngaard's art style and splashes of pink, blue, purple and black spread across each page.
And then the whole thing screeches to a halt as readers are introduced to the hook of this story—haunted house meets the mid-90s California rock/skater scene. In theory, it could work—if Stranger Things taught us anything in the past few years it's that you can always combine the signature aspects of a decade with the horror genre and pop out something fun. Except Home Sick Pilots doesn't possess an endearing cast of characters—it has three teenage burnouts who simultaneously act like they're totally above the scene and yet desperately want to be entrenched in it. The moment I saw song lyrics translated as "Some s—ty derivative thrash s—" and a character respond with "It's got no heart, man," I knew I was in for a long ride.
Back to the plot: Readers see the central trio of Buzz, Rip and Ami get into a fight with the band they just saw perform, Ami is set off when someone mentions her mother dying and readers learn a bit more about the haunted house from earlier. Ami goes missing in said house, Buzz and Rip try to find her and everything goes to hell (literally... maybe?). Energy is breathed back into the comic once the house starts acting like something other than an old building, but you have to get through more grating dialogue from unlikeable characters first.
Perhaps I'm being a too harsh on that front. This is a horror comic after all and some characters must be written like terrible jerks so readers don't feel too bad when they're violently wiped from the Earth. But this is the first issue, so there's much to talk about beyond the reveal at the end—and readers obviously won't know until later issues what that final panel really means.
If you're a horror fan and either grew up in or are a person with a penchant for mid-90s rock there are fun bits to discover here. Otherwise, it's pretty hard to recommend.
Published by Image Comics
On December 9, 2020
Written by Dan Watters
Art by Caspar Wijngaard0comments
Letters by Aditya Bidikar
Design by Tom Muller