The Marvel Universe is full of characters who have so much potential but for whatever reason just haven't taken off with fans. In fact, you could pretty much say that for half of the characters I love, but as we see time and time again, with the right creative team any character can shine, and it would seem for Reptil, that team is Terry Blas, Enid Balam, Carlos Lopez, Victor Olazaba, and Joe Sabino. After an unexpected but delightful cameo in King in Black: Spider-Man, Reptil is in the spotlight for his own series, and it seems we've all been sleeping on just how exciting this character can be.
When you craft a first issue, you have to assume the reader isn't up to speed on a litany of continuity, especially with a character as niche as Reptil. Thankfully, writer Blas seems well aware of this, and a slick two-page spread from penciler Balám and inker Lopez gets the reader up to speed on who Humberto Lopez is, his history as a hero, and why he's currently not doing the superhero thing. It's quickly paced, concise, and visually stellar: an unbeatable combination.
The comic then quickly introduces the engine that should propel this series forward, and that's Humberto's family. Humberto and Vicente move into their Tia's home because of his health issues, and there's a wonderful energy when Julian and Eva enter the picture. They're the perfect counterbalances to Humberto's personality, and the conversations the three have about Humberto's powers and the family don't feel like exposition dumps, but instead genuine conversations you'd have with your own best friends.
Humberto's also dealing with some baggage, both emotional and mental, and that's why it's so important that the first few pages establish him so convincingly. It allows Humbrerto to talk about those things and have them appear as the normal processing of trauma, grief, and anger, as opposed to settling into angsty teen superhero tropes.
Another feather in this comic's cap is how Humberto's family and Spanish culture feels organic. It doesn't fall into the "oh, let's just stick a Spanish word here or a Spanish concept there to get the idea across" trap. The way this family interacts and the Spanglish happening in their home immediately reminded me of when I was growing up, and it's nice to have more of that culture represented in the Marvel Universe.
On the art side of things, if you're going to have a character who can turn into any dinosaur, you have to lean into that and make it look as ridiculously cool as it sounds, and Balám and Lopez deliver this in spades. Whether he's taking on the armor and horns of a Triceratops or the claws and feet of a Velociraptor, his power set can always aid in some way, and one particular sequence where he's defending someone with a spiky tail is simply awesome to behold. Not only that, but Julian opens the door for even more creativity in regards to the dinosaurs Humberto can utilize, and I can't wait to see what this team can imagine going forward.
Now, there is one disappointing aspect to the issue, and that's the villain, at least who we think is the villain. Despite all the bluster and the ability to create other soldiers out of seemingly nothing, this villain just never comes off as a genuine threat, and their costume doesn't help matters. He just looks too goofy to be taken seriously, and I typically love more out there and over-the-top character designs, but this one just doesn't click. The issue only gets back on track with that last page hook, so hopefully, over future issues the villain can become just as compelling.
Despite that flaw, Reptil #1 is an unexpected delight, full of charm, cool powers, and an authentic family dynamic that provides genuine depth and stakes, not to mention intriguing subplots related to the amulet that gave Humberto his powers. If you're willing to give this lesser known character a second chance, I think you'll find that Reptil is more than worthy of the investment.
Published by Marvel Comics
On May 26, 2021
Written by Terry Blas
Art by Enid Balám and Victor Olazaba
Colors by Carlos Lopez
Letters by Joe Sabino
Cover by Paco Medina and Federico Blee