I’ve always heard that it’s the sophomore album that’s the tricky one, particularly if you find success early. It’s where you have to prove that you weren’t just a fluke, that you didn’t catch lightning in a bottle without any way to repeat it. It’s a struggle just to meet that high watermark again.
So changing your setting, your perspective characters, and your vibe at the start of your second album is a pretty risky call, right?
Home Sick Pilots doesn’t give a damn about that. The feel of this arc is immediately, distinctly different, and the way it plays against the tone of previous issues makes you feel like the team is in full control of the story they’re telling. There’s great characterization, eye-popping visuals, and genuine emotion in the first four pages, and it only builds momentum from there.
Writer Dan Watters manages to quickly recap previous events without ever feeling like a recap, which is great because a lot of this issue is more exposition. That usually would feel like it’s slowing things down, gating the juicy story progression and character development behind little lectures. Not here.
Issue #6 feels like having a backstage pass, getting a private tour of the things that go bump in the night, and it handily manages to develop the world at the same time as it propels Meg and Rip’s characters forward.
It’s tricky business, revealing what’s behind the curtain for the mystery villains of the last volume, but the team nails it. They feel human, relatable, intelligent, fun, and incredibly dangerous. There’s a certain honesty to everything they say, which is impressive considering how manipulative they are. In another, less self-aware version of this story, they’d be the heroes. In Home Sick Pilots, they’re the band that sells out.
Caspar Wijngaard’s colors edge towards warm yellow and sunlight for the first time in this issue, really making you feel the distinct shift in tone and location. However, the color schemes remain deliberately restricted, muting and desaturating some hues to make the blue, pink, and blood-red really pop. It’s a tool that’s used to remarkable effect, subtly directing the feel of each panel and page.
For me, the thing that really seems to make the color scheme work is Wijngaard’s commitment to it. Most comics would have some anchoring details that keep one foot in reality, but Home Sick Pilots doesn’t even give its characters typical flesh tones, letting them reflect the light of the scene and rendering them in blue or purple or another cool color. (That’s cool in the “color warmth” sense, though it is also very cool in the “fucking rad” sense.) The effect is a sort of dreamlike heightened reality, and I’d love to see more creators explore the space it creates.
The lettering is uniformly excellent, of course, but when Aditya Biyakar gets the chance to cut loose and hand-letter something absolutely deranged, he kills it. Seriously, just look:
And that’s only one highlight. When a character screams, you feel it. When something explodes, it does so with a sound effect that doesn’t just seamlessly blend with the art of the page, it enhances the composition and storytelling.
My biggest criticism of the series so far is that General Rzor and Rip have pretty similar designs. They’re easy to tell apart when right next to each other, even wearing the same outfit, but their jawlines and dark floppy hair make them look like they could be brothers.
And if that’s the worst thing I can think of about this book, I’d say it’s a pretty big success.