3 out of 5
Canadians are friendly, right? That’s a stereotype? …And so it goes with Jason Loo’s Toronto “super” hero comic book, The Pitiful Human-Lizard, written friendly as can be with a friendly as aw-heck, be-suited, not-so-pitiful, evil-thwarting lead. Who dresses up like a wall-crawling lizard. The rewarding thing – and what helps to overcome Loo’s somewhat bumpy narrative when trying to cycle between his few main characters – is the humdrum What Will Be Will Be temperature of the telling. I often cite the core value of my longtime faves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as being one of acceptance (which, taking every opportunity to rag on the current IDW book, is what that series’ modern iteration has forgotten); maintaining that sensibility – that it’s never been really a “mutant” book with grit teeth and dramaturgy but more just about four brothers who happen to be different and live the sewer and are ninjas and sometimes go to space – is what tied together the first 25 years of variations on their theme, across cartoons and comics, and it’s what really endeared me to the characters. PHL might not have the extra veneer of quirk that could maybe only have been borne in the black and white underground era of comix, but it does have that same innocence as the Turtles, in which the world in which Lizard fights crime giggles at his costume, and he’s aware of that, but he shrugs it off and goes on patrol with his rat-controlling buddy. His workmates know his identity and tease him when he calls out to do hero stuff, but they also support him in it. His mom plays dumb about knowing his secret identity because she knows the good works he does are important to him. This is a good world. And it’s one with continuity and some minimal stakes: people get mutated; friends are made through casual interactions that grow. Loo’s loose artwork captures all of this with appreciable fluidity, a focus on characterization selling the small personality moments and the larger action bits as well.
The laid back Lizard experience is thus a very charming one. The five issues (reprinted by Chapterhouse from, I believe, an earlier indie-er publishing) don’t necessarily break out into sights unseen or build in any kind of page-turning cataclysm – it’s possible to say that reading one issue gives you the gist of any other – but, at the same time, the contextually believable world Loo is taking his time to build is such a feel-good one that you pick up the next issue dedicated to it just to be able to spend some more time there.