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Reptil #2 Highlights the Importance of Representation

When I read the first issue of Reptil, I was unfamiliar with the character, and thankfully that issue provides a recap that enabled me to understand the character better. It was an issue that hooked me in, especially considering that this is a Marvel character I hadn’t read about until now. Now that that’s out of the way, we have Reptil #2, which continues the title character’s story.

In my review of the first issue, I mentioned that even though I got an exposition-heavy recap of the character and his supporting cast, I was never bored. Now that all of the exposition is out of the way, there’s the second issue. Now I know who Reptil, aka Humberto Lopez, is, and I know his deal. We don’t need any more exposition on his origins, and now we can move the story forward. So does Reptil #2 do that? For this reader, the answer is a resounding yes!

Source: Marvel Comics

What I loved about this issue is that compared to the first issue, it feels tighter. I understand why the first issue had to rely on some exposition and recap, but this issue is better. The story moves forward, and there’s a briskness to it. And considering that this issue is a miniseries, it’s easy to fall into that misstep of being rushed with events passing by in quick succession, but that is not the case. Blas manages to let us feel what happens in the story and understand the stakes involved in the quest undertaken by Humberto and his cousins, Eva and Julian.

Another aspect of the writing that I did appreciate is the character writing that Blas employs here. As I’ve mentioned in my review of the first issue, having a Latinx writer like him means maintaining a level of authenticity that I feel wouldn’t have been present had a non-Latinx writer been in charge. In this issue, though, Blas delves into the character’s identity, addressing themes of keeping one’s heritage alive and the importance of representation.

Source: Marvel Comics

Representation can be tricky because when writing characters who don’t conform to the dominant culture of superhero comics, the execution can be rough, no matter how good the intentions are, which is why it is crucial to highlight marginalized voices and marginalized voices characters in comics. In a world where readers are not just cis-gendered, heterosexual white men, representation can be refreshing. It can provide an opportunity to have different and complex perspectives, especially for readers. And this issue is a reminder of the importance of that aspect of representation: not to provide more voices but also to allow for more nuance.

While the writing is indeed stellar, the artwork is not to be ignored. Enid Bálam finally gets to depict some hardcore dinosaur action, and it’s pretty impressive. While there are some instances where the characters look off in terms of facial expressions and certain poses that seem to abuse the concept of body anatomy, it doesn’t necessarily ruin the flow of the issue. There’s a stylishness to it, bolstered by Olazaba’s inks, which maintain that feeling of this being a comic about superheroes. Both of them create a unified “look” of sorts with the comic, which works well with the scenes in this comic, whether that be the conversation between Humberto, Eva, and Julian or the scenes where the former taps into his dinosaur form to fight. When I was reading this issue, there was the feeling of a Saturday morning cartoon, which fits well with the overall story: that of being an adventure to look for one’s past and being a beacon for the others to look up to, while also getting involved in the fantastical aspects of the world they inhabit.

Source: Marvel Comics

Last but certainly not least, the letters by VC’s Joe Sabino always stay consistent. It may be in tandem with the Marvel house style of lettering, but it is readable, and there’s a strong sense of clarity to it, with some of the nuances of Blas’s script, such as the Spanish words translating very well to the words that we read.

As this is a four-issue miniseries, half of Reptil is over; leaving me wishing that I could read more, if only for the simple fact that Humberto and his supporting cast are interesting, especially regarding the world they inhabit.

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Comics

REVIEW: While Exposition-Heavy, Reptil #1 Never Feels Like a Drag

Let me preface this by saying that I am not too familiar with the character of Reptil. I have a cursory understanding of his character so I do appreciate that this issue begins with a general recap of who Reptil is and what he’s doing right now. 

To give a brief overview on who Reptil is, Humberto Lopez is a teenager who, thanks to finding an amulet on one of his parents’ (who are paleontologists) digsites has the ability to turn into any species of dinosuar. Ever since then, he’s been the superhero now known as Reptil.

Source: Marvel Comics

Since this is a four-issue miniseries, I was worried that this recap would take up space that could be considered valuable in terms of set-up. But Terry Blas does a good job of establishing the crux of its story around an aspect of Humberto’s background that is covered in the recap, which I believe could interest fans of the character. 

That being said, I still feel that even with a recap that doesn’t feel like a waste of pages a lot of this issue felt like set-up, at least until the last few pages. Normally, I’d be critical of this, but I think in the case of Reptil, it is essential for Humberto’s character. For the reader, it provides a glimpse into how he and his loved ones are feeling. He’s someone who’s dealing with that elusive beast known as uncertainty, especially after a certain event that involved teenage superheroes of the Marvel universe known as Outlawed (don’t worry about it; the issue explains what happened there). So when there is that big revelation, it felt earned and as someone who considers this series as his first foray into the character, I was also interested.

This speaks to one of the merits of the book, which is its accessibility. This is obviously a book that I am sure existing Reptil fans will enjoy but, as mentioned earlier for someone like me who has never read any of the character’s previous appearances, I didn’t have to worry about “catching up” with Reptil’s history. 

Source: Marvel Comics

Even for readers new to comics, Reptil #1 does provide a good entry point with a character who would be interesting even if he was taken outside of Marvel continuity. His dinosaur powers and excellent design showcase a character rife with potential. What was mentioned earlier about how there’s no need to “catch up” with the character’s history also means that non-comic book readers don’t have to be intimidated by any sort of prior continuity, which is oftentimes a failing of the Big Two (Marvel and DC) comic books; that they’re so obsessed with sticking to continuity to the detriment of new readers who may have the slightest of interest in comic books. Which is why this comic serves as an excellent jumping on point for readers looking to get into comics in general. For all intents and purposes, this is essentially a new character in a world they don’t have to be too acquainted with outside of a few references, which aren’t crucial to understanding the story. 

While the recap pages are beneficial in terms of the aforementioned accessibility, they are also a good opportunity for Blas to give humanity to these characters. It should also be noted that having a Latinx writer like Terry Blas tackle these characters gives them a voice of authenticity. There’s an honesty to Humberto and his loved ones that gets the readers invested into the character from the jump. And I am sure that had this book been written by a writer who is not part of the culture that Humberto and his loved ones are from, there wouldn’t be that honesty. It would have felt artificial and they wouldn’t have felt like real characters. 

Blas is also lucky to work with a good penciller. While I would have loved to see more of Enid Balám’s art, especially with Reptil’s transformation, it’s still nice to look at. The designs for Humberto’s dinosaur alter-egos are really cool to see and I do hope to see him become more unrestrained with how he draws Reptil’s dinosaur forms.

The pencils are balanced well with Victor Olazaba’s inking, which has a smoothness to it that I appreciate. And while I do feel like a series like this could have utilised bolder colours to make it stand out more, Carlos Lopez is still a good colorist. And last but not least, the lettering by VC’s Joe Sabino stays consistent and readable.

Source: Marvel Comics

Considering this issue as a whole, I’d say that it is good at keeping readers invested in the titular character and his loved ones, especially with its accessibility. And while I would normally be concerned with a four-issue series that begins with this much exposition, the ending is proof that this series is about to kick into high gear.