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Haunted house stories are usually pretty dreary. It helps with the horror: a bleak old house covered in shadows so that you can’t see what’s around the corner. But Home Sick Pilots goes in a different direction. It’s still dark and spooky, but it’s also incredibly vibrant — thanks in large part to its punk rock edge.
What is it? Home Sick Pilots is an ongoing series from Image Comics — the run is currently five issues deep — about a girl named Amida, her band, and a sentient house. It’s a period piece, set in 1994, and Ami is part of a group of high school-aged punk rockers looking to make a name for themselves. Then she comes up with a brilliant idea: “We should throw a gig in the house that kills people.”
Initially, the haunted house feels pretty familiar. It’s that big old place that everyone in the neighborhood whispers about, but no one really knows much about its actual history. It’s a literal broken home — and it takes a liking to Ami right away. The house gives her some supernatural powers — at one point, Ami describes herself as “just a little ghostly around the edges” — and tasks her with helping gather missing household items that contain the essence of different spirits. It’s like a very unsettling video game fetch quest. At the same time, the house isn’t so nice to everyone else, literally killing people and keeping Ami in the dark about it. At one point, while narrating the story, she asks, “Did you know that houses can lie?” The vibe is sort of like if Stephen King discovered Riot Grrrl.
Home Sick Pilots is dark and, at times, uncomfortable — there are grisly deaths, scenes of drug abuse, and worse — but it’s also a real page-turner, moving at a brisk pace that makes you want to push forward to uncover the next mystery or see if someone survived. It’s also beautiful to look at, with a striking color palette with lots of blues, pinks, and purples placed starkly against black backdrops, and panels that move the story in clever ways. One of my favorite scenes, very early on, gives you a dollhouse-like view of the house, as two groups move through it, unaware of each other. I also have to give a shout-out to the creepy and inventive monster designs, which would make Guillermo del Toro proud.
Who is it by? The series is written by Dan Watters, best-known for his work on DC’s Lucifer, with art by Caspar Wijngaard, who’s worked on a whole bunch of Star Wars comics in addition to co-creating the surreal hardboiled detective series Limbo with Watters.
Where can I read it? All of the issues to date are available digitally on Comixology, and Image just released a first volume collecting issues one through five. You can also check out the debut issue for free right here.