Naomi #4 // Review
A young foster girl learns some of the mystery of her past in the fourth issue of Naomi. Brian Michael Bendis and David F. Walker’s story of a small town girl with a strange galactic mystery in her past continues to unfold with beautiful art by Jamal Campbell. One might think that an issue which is almost entirely backstory would be less than compelling, but Bendis, Walker and Campbell deliver the story with enough impact to make it feel reasonably compelling. The continued appeal of Naomi as a character may falter a bit once the rest of her mysteries are revealed, but the overall impact of the character remains as her origin miniseries marches towards its end.
Naomi has just been taken to a cave by her adoptive father...a guy who just happens to be from another planet. Turns out he fought alongside Adam Strange earlier on in his life. High command offered him an undercover assignment on an utterly insignificant, little blue-green planet in the milky way galaxy whose ape-descended life-forms were so amazingly primitive that they have barely begun to grasp orbital mechanics. Naomi’s adoptive father proceeds to tell the tale of his life and his time hanging in the same town as the Thanagarian he’d been charged with keeping an eye on. Then, of course, there was falling in love with his wife and the strangely inexplicable event that found Naomi coming into the world. All of it is related before the end of the issue when Naomi is literally handed the mystery that will likely be explored for the bulk of the fifth issue.
Bendis and Walker manage a really fun flashback issue. Naomi doesn’t exactly say very much. She’s listening to her father tell stories from before she was born for much of the issue. Though they’re delivered in a very simple narrative style, Bendis and Walker had spent enough of the first. three issues sculpting a very mundane world, so the story that’s delivered here comes across as refreshingly fantastic. The intergalactic espionage angle on Naomi’s history is given a very unique feel as an adoptive father and Thanagarian mechanic are given a really interesting working relationship.
Campbell lends complexity to the drama of the issue with subtlety etched into every face. The fantastic elements of the story are given their due as well, but Campbell’s greatest accomplishment here is his technique of delivering movement across the page in a very populous page. Layouts feel like sophisticated arrays of cinematic storyboards. Movement cascades across the page in a cleverly kinetic story. It would have been all too easy to plaster Naomi’s father’s exposition of the past over vaguely expressive panels and leave it at that. This IS a flashback issue after all...not much going on outside his story. There’s no reason it should look as good as it does, but Campbell has put together a very visually appealing presentation for what could have been a very dull issue.
In this fourth issue, Bendis, Walker, and Campbell deliver the backstory of Naomi--a new hero who likely gets the big delivery on her mysterious origin next issue. The background on the character has been pretty fun in the course of this mini-series, but once the mystery is fully revealed, it will remain to be seen if she can remain as enjoyable as she is here. Given that the character is driven by the mystery of her own past, it’s possible that they’ll continue to string that out as far as possible as she forges ahead in the DC universe beyond her initial mini-series. The perpetual mystery is only as engaging as the character that mystery is shadowed by. Naomi continues to feel engaging in this fourth issue.