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."- Ronen Kauffman, 2004.
Unsurprisingly, Ronen is right. We'll get to that soon. For now, like many good things in my life, this starts with the Bouncing Souls.
I knew they had this song called "Johnny X," which is an early tune dedicated to Sticks and Stones axe-man, Mike Cavallaro. It's roughly two minutes long, energetic and still gets played live, every now and again. It would be another three years after I heard that song before I would buy the Sticks and Stones greatest hits, The Strife and Times, from a local record store. It didn't really sink in and still hasn't. But, it did have "Theme Song for Nothing," which I do love. I would learn from that that the singer from Sticks and Stones, now called Jack Terricloth would go on to do other things.
He's the same Jack Terricloth that now fronts the World/Inferno Friendship Society, a group of whom I am quite fond of. During all of that, I found a feed to an old comic project of Mike Cavallaro, 66 Thousand Miles Per Hour, and kept up to date on it. It hardly ever updated, but around 2006, it had pieces from an upcoming comic, Parade (with Fireworks). And it was awesome. But, just as it got to its climax, it stopped putting up comics, and in its place, Mike started updating about various comic things that didn't make sense to me.
So. I see a couple months ago, that the full book of Parade (with Fireworks) was available on Amazon, and seeing that I needed another $5 or so to qualify for free shipping, I picked it up for $10. Apparently, an Eisner is a prestigious award for the comics industry. It's nominated for one. Considering this is the second comic Mr. Cavallaro has started, the first being 66 Thousand Miles Per Hour, it seems that the comic industry is recognizing his talent awful quick.
It's 72 pages, but printed on high-quality paper. It's not glossy, but weighty. Grainy might be an appropriate term. The story (a more dramatic version), about Mr. Cavallaro's Italian ancestry in 1923, feels energetic but somehow classic due to the wide range of colors used. It's not all bright or all muted. A war vet comes back to Italy from moving olive oil in Chicago, which is illegal in the U.S. After being home for about a week, the narrator then gets caught in the middle of a fight over the Feast of the Epiphany.
The foreshadowing is clear, but not intrusive. You know something is coming, but not when or how and when it goes bad; there's a moment where it could have been averted, if only...if only...if only...
I don't know how I'm supposed to talk about comic books. The colors are bright and unsaturated, for the most part. Mr. Cavallaro understands how to use time and space and uses language very carefully. Very few words seem superfluous. The backgrounds actually seem interesting on their own. There's not a "filler piece" in there. The comic itself is bright, thematically dark and is ends on a somehow hopeful note, despite the tragic events beforehand.
Like all good debut records, Cavallaro exceeds expectations by turning in something that seems straightforward, but carries with each word and each riff or color stroke, a vivid washing of emotion. I can't wait to see what he does with more time and a further honing of his craft.
[originally published on pastepunk.com.]