Reptil #2 Review

by Charles Martin on June 23, 2021

Reptil #2 Review
Writer: Terry Blas
Penciler: Enid Balám
Inker: Victor Olazaba
Colourist: Carlos Lopez
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Heritage features strongly from the get-go in Reptil #2, with a welcome flashback to Beto's youth showing him in happier times with his parents.

But in the present, we've still got a big fantastic fight scene to deal with! Reptil does a commendable job rescuing a street full of civilians from his new nemesis (later named Megalith). Then it's up to him and his cousins, Julian and Eva, to unpack what happened -- not just the mystery of Reptil's new antagonist, but how and why his sister is suddenly a junior sorceress.

With the kind of impeccable logic that comes into play in comics (and teen fiction of all sorts), they conclude the best course of action is for Eva to magic them to Dinosaur World so Beto can talk to the Hag of the Pits, the maker of his dino-amulet. 

An aside: I could have done with a stronger nod to the fact that Reptil has, through the Hag, a continuity link leading back to Jack Kirby's Devil Dinosaur. But it's still cool to celebrate the fact that the Marvel universe is big enough to contain multiple prehistoric realities, giving creators options beyond the Savage Land when they want to play with dinosaurs.

Speaking of prehistoric settings, this issue gives the art team a chance to flex their dino-drawing muscles, and it's not an opportunity they neglect. Enid Balám's human characters remain chunky and elastic, and now they're joined by a wealth of exquisitely rendered dinosaurs.

Colourist Carlos Lopez takes advantage as well, using a simple tropical palette of greens and blues to establish the setting behind the characters and animals. Sadly, though, his dinosaur colours are mostly muted browns and greys. Perhaps he wants to make sure Reptil's bright orange dino transformations are always the most eye-grabbing thing in the panel? Mission accomplished on that score.

But I started with the point that heritage is important in this issue. It begins with Mrs. Lopez revealing that her favourite dinosaur is Quetzalcoatlus, not just because it's an awesome pterosaur -- and it is! -- but because it proudly carries a Mexican name into the world. The parallels are obvious there.

The Latinx experience comes back to the forefront during Beto's critical conversation with his cousins. They articulate an earned resentment about their never-settled place in the culture of Los Angeles. Julian points out that though they're third-generation Americans, they're regularly mistaken for immigrants. And the fact that merely speaking Spanish sometimes makes Eva feel endangered is a major justification for her cultivating her magic skills.

As happened in #1 (and noted in my review thereof), these ideas tumble out of the characters in an earnest, expository way that's less than ideal. It's definitely telling, not showing. But that's not a mortal sin.

I can forgive some exposition if that's what it takes to get these important themes on the page. It's good for Latinx readers to see characters whose experiences mirror their own. And it's even better for readers outside that demographic box to gain an understanding of what the world looks like from inside it.

But that sometimes-frustrating expository tone runs all through the script. The plot lopes along at a nice pace, but it's often developed by having the next plot point dumped into Reptil's lap. Papá Vic shows up for one page to help Beto and his cousins identify the villain. And the Hag of the Pits wraps up a whole ball of helpful prophecy and hands it to Reptil in the last act.

If I'm critiquing the work of Terry Blas, I also have to emphasize that I am by no means talking about deal-breaking problems here. Pat resolutions to plot problems and characters wearing their hearts on their sleeves aren't bad. They're just not great, putting a soft brake on this comic's rise and holding it short of its full potential.

And there's another important factor to consider: This title is clearly aimed at a young audience. Fresh eyes will probably be a lot more forgiving of expository storytelling than my geezer perspective. 

Plus -- and I say this as somebody slogging through the doldrums of the mid-70s on Marvel Unlimited -- there are much worse ways to mess up a message than to have your characters state it in carefully considered, crystal-clear exposition. I'll take a clear if slightly didactic tone over ineffable hand-waving any day.

Reptil #2 treats Humberto Lopez and his cousins to a theropod-sized chunk of plot development, taking them to Dinosaur World and embroiling them in plenty of well-drawn action. The script takes a clear-cut approach to both plot development and cultural expression, letting the characters broadcast the author's ideas directly. Though the method is a little rough, the ideas are definitely worth checking out. And the expository style will probably be A-OK with the younger audience this book is aiming for.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
I love the note on the teaser page encouraging readers to write in and identify the issue's dinosaurs. Perfect idea!