Home Sick Pilots, Vol. 1: Teenage Haunts introduced readers to the Old James House and its assorted ghosts, along with the titular punk band. Home Sick Pilots, Vol. 2: I Wanna Be a Walking Weapon, written by Dan Watters and illustrated by Caspar Wijngaard, has strayed far from its original idea of a haunted house, taking its hodgepodge elements of X-Men-like superpowers, kaiju-sized monstrosities, and even ’90s punk into new and exciting directions.

Continuing the story from volume one, Ami and Buzz have escaped and are on the run both from the haunted house that is tethered to Ami and from a military agency that wants to weaponize ghosts. All Ami wants is to be able to enjoy some great bands and not have to be responsible for the house and its multitude of ghosts. But fellow punk rocker Meg and the military’s own ghost-powered robot, the Nuclear Bastard, wants Ami to pay for what happened to Meg’s former band, casualties of Ami’s haunted house. There’s a showdown brewing between Meg in The Nuclear Bastard and Ami and the Old James House, a battle that just might bring down the Old James House, along with a lot of property in the Pacific Northwest.

Watters’ story does an amazing job of putting together all sorts of elements that seemingly have no way to coalesce into a story. In volume two, especially, there is a strong superhero undercurrent as Ami is quite reluctant to accept what seems to be her destiny. After mostly establishing the rules of these ghosts in the first book, volume two starts looking more like a very dark, horror-inspired episode of Power Rangers, all while making the book’s main characters multi-layered and sympathetic. Ami and her opposite number Meg, who pilots the Nuclear Bastard, are seen as sympathetic, both young women struggling under the emotional burden of being a literal magnet for ghosts.

Wijngaard continues to use the black panel where the reader sees Ami’s thoughts written in tiny, white letters, but he also doesn’t spare the gore (Meg is literally covered in it throughout most of the book). There are plenty of deaths and disturbing images, including what Ami calls a “human Voltron,” that shows Wijngaard channeling Clive Barker’s fantastical horror, even as he maintains the bright neon colors that fit the ‘90s punk aesthetic. Watters’ story has a lot of influences, from adolescent drama that shows how many ways a human heart can break to body horror that shows how many ways a human body can be twisted out of shape. Wijngaard can create some graphic and violent images, but his realistic depictions of the book’s young adult characters helps ground the story in its quieter, emotion-driven moments.

There are two warnings, however. The first one is that librarians may be tempted to simply stick this book in their teen collection, what with the book’s bright colors and young protagonists, but there are plenty of gory moments in this book as well as more adult subject matter that pushes this title squarely into the adult section. This book does make a great fit for any library looking to add more horror graphic novels to their collection. It’s guaranteed to appeal to horror lovers who also love Godzilla, Guillermo Del Toro, and grunge music. It should also be a great read for readers looking for some science fiction in their haunted house stories.

The second warning? The book ends on such a cliffhanger that readers might demand your library get volume three of this story to see what happens.

Home Sick Pilots, Vol. 1: I Wanna Be a Walking Weapon
By Dan Watters
Art by Caspar Wijngaard
Image, 2021
ISBN: 9781534320529

Publisher Age Rating: 16+

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)

  • James

    | He/Him Circulation Librarian, Clark County Public Library

    Reviewer

    James Gardner is a Circulation Librarian at Clark County Public Library in Kentucky. Along with writing his own stories, he reviews horror for his own blog The Foreboding Home of the Scary Librarian and other places. But graphic novels are another love of his, having grown up loving Spider-Man and the X-Men. Reviewing graphic novels is a dream gig because the graphic novel is a medium that is full of great stories. One of the best things about being a librarian is always having an excuse to read graphic novels among other books, which is because readers’ advisory depends on reading books (while advising is the other half, of course). He also enjoys role-playing games, which is another opportunity for him to immerse himself in a story.

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