Naomi #5 // Review
Siegel and Shuster really knew what they were doing when they created Superman. Granted...the character had precursors in ancient mythology and the John Carter stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs, but the character’s origin has resonance that continues to echo into superhero fiction. This month, writers Brian Bendis and David F. Walker reveal the full origin of a whole new variation on the Superman legend in the fifth issue of Naomi. Jamal Campbell delivers some of his best art of the whole series in a story that languishes a bit in exposition between an emotionally charged opening and a cliffhanger ending.
Naomi has just received a gift. She’s also just discovered that she’s not precisely from the Earth as we know it. And her parents aren’t exactly her parents. But they’re not NOT her parents either. It’s really complicated. And the gift? She’s got power...like...superhuman power. And a snazzy-looking costume with big shoulder pads. So naturally, she’s going to shoot right over to tell her best friend about everything. And naturally, she’s going to put that friend in jeopardy as a sinister villain from an unknown past arrives to confront her about her newfound powers.
Bendis and Walker reveal a rather cleverly constructed mutation of the Superman myth. She’s an alien who doesn’t know she’s an alien and is thrust into a world she doesn’t understand...which kind of recalls echoes of Jim Shooter’s Star Brand comic from the mid-1980s. All precursors aside, it’s really cool to see a hero so amazed by her own power that she INSTANTLY heads out to tell her best friend in a totally breathless and exhilarated narrative. That initial conversation between Naomi and her best friend makes the lengthy, plodding exposition that follows all the more tolerable, but it’s still profoundly boring storytelling until the backstory is finished and the villain arrives.
Campbell plays clever subtlety in the conversation between Naomi and her friend Anna. Anna hasn’t really had a whole lot of time in the story thus far, which makes her supporting role that much more tricky to bring to the page. Campbell does a brilliant job of sculpting the body language between two best friends that shows a profound amount of familiarity even though the two characters haven’t had much time together. Campbell’s sensitivity to the dramatic end of the story is mirrored by powerful handling of the physical action. Naomi’s transformation is dazzlingly radiant. Still, panels of action are given overwhelming power. It’s a stunning visual package.
The fifth issue of Naomi feels a bit unbalanced. Had her past been framed with more of an active integration with present action, this issue could have been sheer joy. The lagging backstory weighing-down the middle of the story isn’t given enough impact to make it feel particularly strong. Emotional excitement and impending danger are compelling. The generic space fantasy backstory tethered to the middle of the issue keeps it from its potential.