Mike Cavallero a.k.a. Johnny X - 66 Thousand Miles Per Hour [comic book] (Cover Artwork)

Mike Cavallero a.k.a. Johnny X

66 Thousand Miles Per Hour [comic book] (2004)

True Believers Press/Chunksaah

The long-standing relationship between punk rock and comic books is nothing new – plenty of common cultural elements are shared by these two forms of cultural expression. And as two genres once almost exclusively the domain of nerds, both comics and punk rock have undeniably fused themselves well into the forefront of what people think is cool. After all, where would we be without the new Punisher movie, or Sum 41? Given the environment, a comic book like 66 Thousand Miles Per Hour seems right on time.

The book itself is stylized while remaining accessible, involving alien intelligences, super powers, and over-the-top characters suited perfectly to their comic book world. The reader follows Evie Price as she tries to navigate her high-school existence. When weird stuff starts to happen in Evie's boring New Jersey town, her life goes from un-inspired to unpredictable almost at once.

Although the prequel issue (#0) popped with spot-on coloring, the book's black and white presentation is one of a number of elements that contribute to a certain no-bullshit feel – one that makes 66kMPH move very naturally. Writer and artist Michael Cavallero has a talent for focusing on the things that make good comics happen – interesting characters and plots, motion, and more than anything else, expression. The result is solid, effective storytelling. It's a strong showing for Cavallero's first real project.

Themes found in 66kMPH – like alienation, separation, and overall social disconnectedness - echo the music with which Cavallaro has been involved for years. Also known as Johnny X, he played in Sticks and Stones, Zero Zero, and Johnny X and the Conspiracy. Over time, he's become something of a punk folk hero, emerging as a recurring character in the ever-evolving universe of The Bouncing Souls (which itself often seems to have a comic-book-like continuity); he's not only designed some of the Souls' most recognizable artwork, but has had songs and records named after him.(See: the "Johnny X" seven inch.)

If the first couple issues of 66kMPH are any indicator, Johnny X might one day wind up more famous for his comics than for his music. Like the music industry, the comics industry is flooded with an overabundance of unacceptably awful products, and so it can often be difficult to find the nuggets of real goodness amongst the sea of dreck. But Cavallero's resume demonstrates that he knows how to craft a project/product, and 66kMPH is the latest confirmation of his talent.

Beyond all the analysis, 66kMPH is a great read. It has a fantasy/adventure story line, but still retains a distinct earthiness; things can get cartoonish, but they're never corny. Certain plot devices hint at serious themes, but everything is blended in so evenly that nothing seems over-done; this helps to lend realness to an otherwise fantastical story. Overall, 66kMPH is refreshing and entertaining. And considering that it's Cavallero's first shot at producing a comic book, it's even more impressive.