Writer: Dan Watters
Artist: Caspar Wijngaard
Lettered: Aditya Bidikar
Designer: Tom Muller
Production Artist: Erika Schnatz
Home Sick Pilots #8 is perhaps one of my favourite issues of the series so far. We’ve learnt more about Ami, Buzz, Rip and Meg in this arc, which is something I’ve entirely welcomed, but this issue shows us the other side of the coin, as we start to learn more about the ghosts within the Old James House.
As far away from home as a freight train could get them, Ami and Buzz are surviving by busking in the park, but tonight they’re planning to have some fun and head to a local punk gig. Up until this point, the Old James House has been keeping a safe distance, hanging out under the pier waiting for Ami’s inevitable return; but as we saw last issue there’s one ghost who has other ideas.
We learn that this little ghost is Li’l Marky and he likes to make things. After running into some Nazi punks at the end of the last issue, Marky decided to turn them into something that can only be described as a Junji Ito-esque nightmare.
We also catch up with Meg and Rip and get a glimpse of the effect that being haunted by her bandmates is having on Meg. I think it’s safe to say that Meg is not okay, but she doesn’t seem to realise that, not yet at least.
Overall this issue is absolutely packed with developments. The inevitable showdown between the Old James House and the Nuclear Bastard grows ever closer and the tension continues to build. However, Dan Watters and Caspar Wijngaard are spending more time than ever furthering character development. As we learn more about the ghosts within the Old James House they become more complete characters in their own right, not just a part of something bigger. There’s a layer of melancholy and tragedy added as we learn about The Clock, Mrs. Garison and Li’l Marky. We knew terrible things had happened in the house, but knowing the details really changes the perspective from being just a super haunted location to a location filled with ghosts that are characters within themselves.
There’s also a political statement behind this issue as the gig scene features a speech about Nazis within the punk scene. It’s the kind of impassioned speech that sadly still features at some gigs even now; but paired with the horror of the same problematic punks making their appearance at the gig, there’s a gruesome visual given to the disgusting portion of a subculture that everyone would be better off without.
Caspar Wijngaard’s artwork in this issue shows multiple sides to his style, not only showcasing the everyday hanging out of Ami and Buzz, but also the aforementioned Junji Ito nightmare monster, made all the more terrifying when it’s fully revealed. Then the rough panel layouts with great dynamics depicting the punk show really carry the energy of a punk gig. There’s a great variation in colouring between scenes, which really helps to convey the shift in mood between what’s happening. Simply put, Caspar’s art is some of the best you’ll find in comics right now.
As always Aditya Bidikar’s lettering throughout the issue is perfect; the choice of teal for the backing for Marky and his creation’s speech bubbles immediately sets them apart from the human speech within the issue, even when they’re covered by Ami’s narration. Bidikar’s sound effects are minimal but work to great effect when they do appear; there’s a “kraakk” as a roof comes off a building that I’m particularly a fan of.
It seems like the words “punk rock” are thrown around when talking about comics, but that’s always struck me as a subjective term to use. After all if you can put the same label on the Buzzcocks and Black Flag it clearly covers a world of difference. There’s no denying that Home Sick Pilots is a vessel for the creative team’s punk history, and while it’s part of the narrative there’s a lot more to this book than that. This is a horror book that’s got me deeply invested in both it’s human and ghostly characters. There’s an incredible amount of layers to the narrative that’s unfolding and I can’t wait to see how everything will come together.