Naomi #2 // Review
An orphan finds an unlikely source of information about her birth in a mechanic in a small town in the second issue of Brian Michael Bendis and David F. Walker’s Naomi miniseries. The drama-based mystery continues in an issue largely devoid of any aggressive physical action. Artist Jamal Campbell maintains a dramatically dynamic story with minimal exaggeration. Naomi learns important details of her background that only create more questions in a shadowy small-town mystery.
A massive, hulking, menacingly tattooed mechanic named Dee seems to know something about Naomi’s past and how it connects-up with a strange event involving some sort of superhero in the small town. No one seems to remember it but Dee and he runs away from tiny, little Naomi when she asks him about it. She confronts her parents, who genuinely don’t seem to know anything about it, prompting Naomi to engage in a sneaky break-in at Dee’s shop to investigate.
Bendis and Walker strike an interesting rhythm with this issue. Confrontations with Dee bookend an issue that is otherwise largely dominated by interpersonal dialogue between Naomi and her adoptive parents that is loaded-down with dialogue and Naomi’s break-in at the garage, which doesn’t really have any dialogue at all. Thought it certain has its own kind of symmetry and the mystery IS interesting, the overall energy of the issue feels like it hasn’t quite found its footing. Not enough seems to be happening between one encounter with Dee and the next. Naomi’s relationship with her parents IS developed a little bit more, but it seems like the scenes between the beginning and the end of the issue could have been better placed elsewhere within the narrative.
The trick in rendering an issue full of conversation lied in making each conversation feel distinct. Campbell finds the specific pulse and mood for each of the interactions Naomi has this issue. Campbell’s treatment of the brooding, sulky Dee makes him feel as dangerous as he is inert. The motions and emotions of Dee’s parents come across compellingly compassionate over dinner in a nice, suburban home. Five consecutive pages of dinner conversation could EASILY run the risk of coming across like a stuffy soap opera, but Campbell finds clever framing and lighting for the placid dinner conversation that holds a captivating kind of warmth about it. The shadowy break-in at issue’s end has an uneasy movement about it. An issue so weighted-down with dialogue that suddenly lacks any text at all usually has a tendency to speed-up when there’s a scene with no text at all, but Campbell’s slow, tentative tour through Dee’s garage by flashlight is brought to the page with a steady silence that slows everything down. Four pages of tiptoe-exploration decelerates the momentum of the issue as it coasts into a quick crash of discovery at issue’s end.
Bendis, Walker and Campbell slink forward into further mystery in a satisfying issue with curious pacing. It’s the type of nuanced drama not often found in mainstream superhero stories...a distinction which should prove interesting in issue three which is being billed as “The Secret History of the DC Universe.” Interesting alternative ground is being covered in the DC Universe in this title. As Bendis, Walker and Campbell focus more on the small town life in the shadow of superpowers, the series will find its unique voice coming out much more substantially.