The strange thing about PARADE (WITH FIREWORKS) #1 is the sense of scale; this is a relatively small tale told against a large canvas, and despite the best efforts of Mike Cavallero, it reads as mismatched as that sounds. The problem isn't with the plot - based on the real life experiences of one of Cavallero's relatives - but with the way in which the plot is executed. After a promising prologue that suggests a more personal, internal, story than what we get - running through the history of one of the main characters in the main part of the first issue - we're taken into a narrative that relies on a political background that gets no explanation whatsoever. Don't get me wrong; the reader could read Communists versus Fascists as the Jets versus the Sharks if they've got no knowledge or interest in international political history, but that gets slightly less easy when the plot relies on events shifting when particularly political music is played at the wrong time for the wrong audience. It's as if Cavallero got too caught up writing family history that he maybe knows too well, forgetting to explain things to newcomers who don't happen to be related to him.
On the plus side, the art is a beautiful thing - A more European version of Scott Morse's stuff in many ways, with some great color work and surprisingly good acting from very simple linework. As much as I'm tempted to say that it's worth the cost of the book on its own, that does a disservice to the dialogue and characterization that the writing offers; although there isn't enough of a history lesson for my liking, Cavallero's writing isn't bad at all - he brings an interesting sense of pacing and drama, and keeps everything moving and readable. While the book may not be entirely a success, it's at least worth a Good look, and enough to make me wonder if the second half will pay off the prologue of the first.