On the surface, Reptil seems like the most innocuous of the "Avengers Academy" members. While all six of them were placed in the Academy because they had the greatest chance of becoming super-villains, his generally upbeat nature has always made you wonder if Reptil's diagnosis was incorrect. So of course, with this issue, Christos Gage lets us finally see what makes Humberto tick.
It's an interesting story, in part because for Reptil more than anyone else, becoming an Avenger is a life-long dream. So while he's the most likely member to admit to the Avengers that they know why they're really there, he also has the most to lose if the Avengers Academy program comes crashing down. Gage does a good job of keeping Reptil likable and fun to have around; he tries to make the other teammates feel secure and wanted, and even tries his hand at a little matchmaking. In some areas more than others, though, Reptil's not quite as effective as he'd want to be. But it's fun to watch him slowly learn and improve.
Except, of course, Reptil's big smile is a facade that is trying to hide some larger cracks within him. Watching him teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown is both interesting and sad at the same time; he wants everything to succeed so well that his bottling up all of his emotions is threatening to have him self destruct. It's a good usage of a simple psychological condition, and Gage makes it feel realistic. While all of the kids in the book are at varying degrees of likability, Gage is definitely placing Reptil at the most likable end of the scale. And so, of course, whenever that fall eventually comes, it's going to be that much more dramatic.
Mike McKone is back this month on pencils (along with four inkers), but based on a letter column mention of Tom Raney coming on board next month it's hard to say if this is McKone's last issue or not. I hope that's not the case; as much as I do like Raney's art, McKone's smooth, crisp style is a joy to see every month. His characters are super-expressive, and when Reptil's powers kick into high gear his diagonal-shaped panels are a simple but effective look. He can handle charming and creepy with equal aplomb, and if he is in fact leaving it will be a real shame.
"Avengers Academy" has finished introducing its six main characters, and I'm interested to see just Gage and company have in store for us next. This has been a remarkably successful launch of a new series, and I'm jazzed to keep reading.