Reptil’s real name is Humberto Lopez. He was a superhero. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, don’t worry. Reptil #1 — the first issue of a four-part, post-Outlawed, post-King in Black miniseries — effectively (re)introduces the character, who first appeared in writer Christos Gage and artist Steve Uy’s Avengers: The Initiative Featuring Reptil #1.
Enid Balám (penciler), Terry Blas (writer), Carlos Lopez (colorist), Paco Medina and Federico Blee (cover), Victor Olazaba (inker), VC’s Joe Sabino (letterer)
May 26, 2021
Over a two-page spread deftly rendered by Balám, Olazaba, Lopez, and Sabino, Humberto summarizes his canon: from his first appearance, when he got the fossilized bone amulet that allowed him to turn into any dinosaur (in Blas’s words, “every kid’s dream, really”), in 2009 to the disbanding of the Avengers Academy team in 2013. Between his past and the present is the enactment of Kamala’s Law in 2020, which, if you haven’t read Outlawed or the most recent run of Champions, made unsupervised teenage superheroics illegal.
Reptil #1 really starts when Humberto and his grandfather Vicente (Papá Vic) move in with his aunt Gloria and twin cousins, Eva (an overachiever) and Julian (a content creator), in Los Angeles. At home and out in the city, the family uses untranslated Spanish words and phrases (neither Google Translate Spanish nor <language “translated” into English>) and makes references to Chicanx culture, evidencing the creative team’s use of specificity to engender authenticity. They do so not just through language but also settings. There’s a poster of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo on the wall of Julian’s room, and the twins take Humberto to Santee Alley, a subsection of LA’s fashion district that’s colloquially known as “Los Callejones,” where Eva and Julian bought the outfits for their shared quinceañera and where Humberto will be attacked by a supervillain.
Although Humberto, Eva, and Julian don’t always sound like teens — they’re maybe too good at talking about their feelings — they do look their nonspecific, older than 15 but younger than 20, ages. Their physical features make them look young but not too young, and their clothing (including Humberto’s Selena y Los Dinos sweatshirt) is age-appropriate, which is never guaranteed in teen superhero titles. Moreover, they’re consistently colored, such that their skin tones are affected by light and shadow but never whitewashed.
Having said all of this, my favorite formal element comes from the lettering. Shortly after Humberto does a double, cross-armed fist bump with his cousins, his own verbal and stylized “Boom!” is echoed by an environmental and stylized “ba-boom.” This sequence also involves a change in visual and narrative perspective: the reader goes from looking at the teens and into their personal lives to looking out from behind them and outward to the source of the sound effect, the villain who wants Humberto’s amulet.
The thing that ultimately sold me on this miniseries and its title character, though, was the issue’s only splash page. After being told again and again that Humberto’s superpower was violent and offensive, the splash page shows him using his ability to turn (in part or whole) into a dinosaur defensively to protect someone else. That, the fact that Reptil #1 was so accessible, and the plot twist at the end all made me want to keep reading.