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Rival Review

-by Andrew Goletz

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

‘There was a hero once. Called himself the Rival. And indeed it was his rivalry with criminals that ended his life. His enemies had banded together, you see. Vanquished him. And the small island city of Bettano mourned, for their protector was at rest. A greater loss for a young spirited Sadie Thomas, who lost the love of her life and her will to live. A year later, a hero in black is fighting once more…yet Sadie still cries.’ That excerpt comes from the inside cover to ‘Rival’ #1. What an interesting idea. A love story set against the gritty, vigilante, superhero background.

I mentioned in my interview that anyone with enough ambition, time and extra cash can put out their own self-published comic book. But It takes a little more work to make it a quality book, and it’s even more rare to find a self-published book with as much originality, heart and execution as ‘Rival’. ‘Rival’ is the latest from Tears Like Water Productions, headed by creator, writer and artist Brien Cardello.

The series makes its center around Sadie Thomas, a young girl dealing with the death of her superhero boyfriend, who was the masked hero, Rival. It's a darkly told story that takes place on the industrial island of Bettano a year after his death. A new Rival has appears just as Sadie has been trying to convince her friends her old boyfriend is alive. Its strengths lie in the characterization of the people involved and less in the heroes and villains, which usually take the spotlight. It's a schizophrenic, action, romance with enough mystery to keep readers guessing.

Cardello shows a lot of promise as a writer and the story of ‘Rival’ and dialogue within the pages is top notch. He manages to bring some fresh perspective on old ideas and the concept of a woman still mourning her deceased vigilante lover doesn’t sell itself out at any point. He portrays Sadie as a strong willed woman with an emotional bond for her lover and nothing less. We should be lucky to have woman portrayed as more than sexual objects in need of rescuing in comic books.

The downside with ‘Rival’ comes on the art side. Cardello credits the artist as being Ollie Drac, but if you look closely at the name you’ll find the true art is the responsibility of Cardello himself. The art isn’t horrible and you can certainly do worse in the self- published field, but it is the weak link in an otherwise ‘A’ book. Since comics are a form that requires a balance between writing and art, it wouldn’t be fair to push aside the art criticisms in favor of giving the book a higher rating. But I did want to stress the fact that the weakness in the art doesn’t detract too much from the story and this is a book I couldn’t recommend highly enough. It’s a fantastic idea and hopefully Brien’s hard work will get the positive attention it deserves. I encourage everyone to seek this book out and see for yourselves what the next generation of storytellers have lined up.

Brien Cardello: Creator, Writer, Artist.

6 issue limited series. Available from TLW Productions. PO Box 140388, Brooklyn, NY 11214.

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