Reptil #1 Review

by Charles Martin on May 26, 2021

Reptil #1 Review
Writer: Terry Blas
Penciller: Enid Balám
Inker: Victor Olazaba
Colourist: Carlos Lopez
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Reptil is a teen hero with a nice long pedigree in the "under-appreciated gem" line.  A perennial standout in Avengers Academy and its follow-on stories, Humberto Lopez is finally getting a solo spotlight.

This intro issue does a commendable job introducing its star and delivering his complex backstory. He's been a hero and a potential villain, trusted and distrusted, put through considerable trauma. 

Right from the start, there's melancholy in the character. Kamala's Law is very much in effect and it's not even legal for him to go teen hero-ing right now. Which suits Beto just fine; he doesn't particularly want to.

Lacking a secret identity keeps that melancholy running in the background as he slowly integrates into his aunt's family. His cousins assume he'll be dinosaur-ing it up all the time, and his reluctance on that front adds realistic complexity to the family relationships.

Said relationships might not need the help. Beto's grandfather is sick and not dealing with it well. He and his relatives are also at odds regarding Beto's parents: They're missing and the question of when and how to say goodbye to them is contentious. 

And finally, at the end, a supervillain comes crashing in, gunning for Beto specifically and throwing out lots of promising hints about his ties to the young hero's story. The book's action quotient is filled in a high-intensity rush, with both expected and surprising superpower usage and an excellent hook for the next issue.

It's a big book, and it's in real danger of being labelled a slow one. There are two or three potential start points closer to the action where everything that comes before could be cut off and delivered later, when it's more plot-relevant.

But in my opinion, the slow burn works pretty well. The long introduction is an opportunity to paint Reptil in the round, to build up his life as a whole rather than as a collection of plot threads dangling behind his dino-heroics. Writer Terry Blas earns a middling grade on the "show don't tell" scale; sometimes his characters have to resort to announcing their feelings to get them on the page.

I think that's a very forgivable sin. Because showing how Beto feels about his complicated past and his equally complicated present is the whole point of this issue. The deep, sometimes-expository stage-setting also serves to bring his family into three-dimensional life, and I suspect they have vital roles to play in the future. That'll make the time spent developing them now well worth it.

On the visual side of things, this book's art team delivers a formidable performance. Enid Balám starts with sharp character designs thrown into intricate, memorable settings. The pencilling does a fast and wholly successful job of giving this title a distinctive visual identity. Balám's LA settings -- the family home and the fashion district -- both punch the "I want to go there" button hard.

Inker Victor Olazaba gets to show off his range early, using delicate linework to pack detail into the impressive double spread that recaps Reptil's heroic past. Carlos Lopez furthers the effect by putting some nice scratchy texture into the spread's colours.

Best of all, the final action scene calls forth a remarkable visual transformation. The whole art team shifts tone. The layouts become looser, with bigger, character-focused panels. The blocking and posing get incredibly dynamic. The inking gets heavier, popping the characters up out of the background. And Lopez's colours, already evoking sun-soaked LA, intensify almost feverishly to make the heroics feel larger than life.

The script is in full control of this last-minute acceleration, peppering the action scene with a rapid-fire barrage of fascinating new ideas that will have a major impact on how the story develops in further issues.

The overall creative effort at the end fully redeems the slow pace with which the issue builds to the action. We've taken the time to get to know Beto and his family, making it easy to care about their fates once the antagonist finally attacks. 

Plus, counting the pages reveals that the issue is hardly shortchanging us on action. This final scene I'm talking about is 10 pages long; it's no mere afterthought. The intricate family drama and the intense super-fight that follows it are remarkably well-balanced despite their very different tones.

Whether you come into Reptil #1 as a total newcomer or an established fan, this book's hard-working creative team ensures that you come off the last page with a greater appreciation for the character and, most likely, a burning desire to find out what happens next. It's a bit of a slow start, but the time taken to lay track at the beginning pays off when the action scene turns this comic into an express train.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
I'm glad this issue addresses a perennial Reptil problem: "The Kid Who Can Turn Into All the Dinosaurs" should really know a lot about dinosaurs. Cousin Julian provides a promising solution.