Naomi #3 // Review
A foster kid in a small town is looking for clues about her past. People are keeping things from her. There’s so much she doesn’t know. Maybe the big, burly mechanic knows something. Perhaps one of her parents could fill her in. The mystery continues in the third issue of Naomi. Brian Michael Bendis and David F. Walker continue a story drawn by Jamal Campbell. A mini-series based on secrets continues to show promise in winding corridors of narrative guide its title character to the inevitable conclusion. Bendis, Walker, and Campbell keep the pace compelling in a story that’s deeply grounded in personal drama.
Having broken into auto mechanic Dee’s shop, she spotted a photo. It’s a photo of Dee posing with an older woman who looks a lot like Naomi. Naturally, she’s going to have some questions. Dee’s been scarred be a life he left behind. He likely has some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder. It turns out he’s an alien — a Thanagarian. (A soldier from Hawkman’s world.) He’s not her father, though. The woman in question isn’t Naomi’s biological mother either. Things get a lot more complicated and a whole hell of a lot more mysterious when Naomi’s adoptive mother shows-up to drag her away from Dee.
The bulk of the first half of the issue is a simple conversation between Naomi and Dee. That’s a whole lot of real estate to focus on one talk. Thankfully, the pacing of the dialogue is genuinely engaging. Naomi wants easy answers and Dee’s damaged. He doesn’t know what to tell her, and he doesn’t know what NOT to say to her. Bendis and Walker move the dialogue along with just enough revelations on every page to keep it all moving along. Brief fantastic glimpses of Dee’s add to the mystery. The second half includes a moment between Naomi and her adoptive father that takes a while to play out, but given what he reveals at the end of the conversation, it NEEDS to feel like a normal conversation between father and daughter to keep it from feeling ridiculous.
There’s little questioning that a drama-based issue like this would be nothing without a decent artist. Campbell carves a forlorn immensity into Dee’s monolithic form. It takes the right kind of genius to make a guy with tattooed biceps more prominent than his head seem vulnerable. This vulnerability is contrasted against Naomi’s rightfully forceful frustration. Campbell gives Naomi a stern fearlessness in the face of a massive monolith of a Thanagarian. Later-on father and daughter are walking around in the woods at night. Campbell makes Naomi’s adoptive dad seem calming and even-tempered. She’s scared; he’s being reassuring every step of the way. The compassion that Campbell can imbue Naomi’s dad with throughout the last few pages gives the reveal at the end of the issue quite an impact.
The third issue of Naomi is a fascinating story, but it’s not exactly the type of thing people have come to expect from mainstream superhero comics. The end of the last issue promised that the next would feature: “The Secret History of the DC Universe.” Naomi #3 in no way lived up to this promise, but it scarcely seems to matter. In light of the nuanced interpersonal drama that anchors this issue, a statement feels almost self-conscious. The cover of the issue has a huge breathless blurb at the bottom announcing, “SECRETS REVEALED!” It’s as though they feel they have to over-sell the significance of the story to get mainstream superhero audiences interested in something that moves a bit more slowly and soulfully than the standard DC universe story. They shouldn’t feel the need to do so. This title is a mini-series. DC needs to be as fearless as Naomi in confronting this type of story. Allow it to be what it is. Don’t try to sell it as something it’s not from around the edges of the action.