Writer: Dan Watters
Artist: Caspar Wijngaard
Lettered: Aditya Bidikar
Designer: Tom Muller
Production Artist: Erika Schnatz

It’s on! Old James House vs. The Nuclear Bastard!

The first arc of Home Sick Pilots was spent establishing The Old James House and the second was spent explaining the relationship between the house and Ami, while also establishing Meg’s character and introducing The Nuclear Bastard. With that in mind, it seemed inevitable that this arc would bring the two together and take the band rivalry to a completely different level. That’s exactly where this issue kicks off and, although there’s a great amount of action as the two haunted mechs battle, there’s no shortage of character moments and plot development.

Honestly, this is an issue that excels in every area and immediately brings to the surface everything I love about the series. I can’t lie, I realise now how much I’ve missed it the last couple of months.

Caspar Wijngaard’s artwork does a lot of the talking throughout the issue. Early on there’s an absolutely gorgeous couple of pages of the Home Sick Pilots being drawn into the house for their own safety, which leads to a great double page spread that mimics the first issue pages of the bands exploring the Old James House; though this time around we’re seeing the house in a very different form. There’s also the added detail of glowing gears which Ami explains are part of how the ghosts help the house move. Later in the issue we also see how the house and Ami move in tandem and it’s at this point that it feels like Caspar’s art is showing the tokusatsu influences behind the series more than we’ve seen previously, but as two giant beings fight, is there a better time to do so?

Although Caspar’s art does plenty of the talking, so does Dan Watters writing. There’s a clear benefit to being at the late stages of a story and, with every moving part in place, this issue is the perfect opportunity to take the time out to expand on what we already know, introduce some new ideas and continue what’s already been a series full of great character work.

Not long after the Home Sick Pilots are reunited and brought into the house, Ami takes the time out to explain how the house moves and the way the ghosts work with her, each taking on their own role. It’s a great explanation, and one that does make sense. Her narration also leads into her talking about the feeling of having your whole world collapse on top of you. It’s a poignant moment and, while explaining the similarities between her and the ghosts, it’s also relatable and downright heartbreaking because of it.

However, this isn’t the only incident that touches upon mental health and trauma. In fact, there’s a big focus on trauma this issue as Ami explains that the trauma of herself and the six ghosts within the house can’t compete with the Nuclear Bastard and it’s collection of spirits who suffered terrible fates due to nuclear testing in the desert. While there’s a personal level here of never feeling like you’ve had it as bad as you really have when compared to the suffering of others. There’s incredible phrases in Ami’s explanation of the Nuclear Bastard, like “the trauma of America” and “America Incarnate”, that paint a clear picture of the political climate that led to the creation of the Nuclear Bastard. 

While Ami is the focus, there’s interesting moments for each character we see. Rip finally feels on the verge of seeing that Meg isn’t necessarily in her right mind anymore now that she’s channelling so many ghosts. There’s also a clear moment of realisation that Buzz has grown up a lot over the last few issues, and Rip has missed a lot of what his friends have been going through. As I’ve mentioned, we also see Meg clearly detached from the person she once was, now obsessed with destroying the Old James House and Ami along with it if needs be. Meg also opens up the possibility that the house killed her bandmates because of Ami’s presence there, something we haven’t really investigated previously. Then there’s the fact that Old James himself tells Ami that there’s a final ghost we haven’t even seen yet, and that he might have more history with the ghosts they’re fighting than he’s letting on.

There’s also some great details in the storytelling that are rarely seen in stories like this one. For instance, the military sending helicopters to intervene in the battle is something we never seem to see in Kaiju battles or when giant mechs destroy a city. However, it’s a good touch that brings a hint of realism into a book overflowing with the unbelievable.

As this issue concludes, we’re left with Rip and Buzz heading off in pursuit of The Final Ghost. This could be the missing piece of the puzzle, which will lead to the Old James House’s final form and an advantage in the ongoing battle. Ami’s conversation with Old James also suggests that we may well be close to getting some answers from him about what’s really going on.

With all this being said, I just feel like this is a superbly constructed issue introducing new elements and building the already well developed characters, while never overlooking the details in the story being told.

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