Naomi #1 // Review
A small-town high school girl is intrigued by mysteries of the past in the first issue of Naomi: a new ongoing series in DC’s Wonder Comics line. Brian Bendis and David F. Walker write the issue with art by Jamal Campbell. It’s a promising story that aims itself squarely at the perfectly attainable superpower that is basic human curiosity delivered to the page with a smart sense of perspective around the strange edges of the DC Universe.
Naomi is a perfectly normal suburban American. Life changes for her when a tussle between Superman and a villain crashes through town for seventeen seconds. It’s the talk of the town. Everyone assumes it’s the only interesting thing that’s ever happened there, but there are rumors of something else that Naomi feels drawn to investigate in the opening issue of a new series.
Bendis and Walker really have something here. The opening of a whole new series is prompted by something that might otherwise have been a single panel of a standard Superman comic book. The crowd rolling around in the background of any major superhero battle HAS on occasion been the focus of a story here or there over the decades, but this may be the first time that an entire series has been launched there around the edges of the panels of a more standard superhero comic book. It’s a domain that Naomi seems quite comfortable in. There’s a mystery about her past as she is a foster kid trying to deal with her own unknown history that may have some link to an event in the town’s past.
Campbell admirably tackles the challenge of making small-town America seem visually interesting in the shadow of superheroes. He’s got a very appealing style that feels remarkably dynamic whether Superman is bounding through town or Naomi is sharing a moment of confidence with her therapist. Campbell’s framing of the action makes casual conversation seem compelling. Of particular note are several pages of panels that feature one-panel opinions and bits of narration from various citizens of the town. Each one carries his or her own personality. Each one has his or her own distinct style. Many artist would have some difficulty rendering so many individuals in a crowd, but Campbell is perfectly matched with the attitude of the series and as such he renders a really interesting small town atmosphere to the page complete with dynamic layering of action and cleverly framed action that varies the physical perspective of the panels quite a bit.
The series that Naomi seems to be hinting at in its first issue is going to be a really, really delicate one. Obviously there’s going to have to be a dive into more traditional superhero stuff in order for the series to really take-off, but allow things to go too far in the direction of traditional superhero fare and it going to lose some of what’s made this first issue so appealing. Also: a lot of what’s driving the plot here is a mystery. The series is going to have to be really careful and thoughtful about letting bits of the mystery become revealed in future issues. Reveal too much at once and the series is going to lose even more of its appeal. As an opening, though, Naomi’s first issue feels like it could be a part of something special.