The premise to Naomi #1 is simple enough. A fight between Superman and Mongol briefly enters the small town of Port Oswego and leaves the entire town in awe, especially Naomi, a young Superman fan who missed the chance to see her favorite hero.
The small-town feel is important for the book. It’s stressed by multiple characters in the book that nothing like this has ever happened to them. This isn’t Metropolis or Gotham. This point isn’t just accomplished through the script by Bendis and Walker. Jamal Campbell’s art uses larger than life figures and poses when Superman does arrive, capturing the golden rays of the sun. And letterer Josh Reed uses lowercase letters, which gives the book a more naturalistic feel than standard comic book text, which is done entirely in capitalized letters.
These smaller details help sell the town, which makes the protagonist Naomi feel all the more realized as a character. She’s a fan of Superman, who wants to feel special, like her idol. This isn’t something that she is able to immediately express however, as she gets help from her therapist to identify her “Superman Complex.”
These therapist scenes are handled wonderfully by Bendis and Walker. Given that Naomi is a title in the new Wonder Comics line at DC, aimed at younger readers, it’s important that these scenes recognize therapy and counseling as something normal rather than stigmatize them. Naomi #1 excels, in major part because Walker and Bendis don’t over explain Naomi’s need for counseling. There’s no explicit trauma revealed, no dead parents, no explicit psychosis. This is a girl who is simply getting the help she needs to better understand herself.
Of course, as Naomi discovers as she talks to her fellow citizens, she begins to notice a sense of unease, and learns that — in spite of everyone’s awe at Superman’s arrival — this isn’t the first rodeo in Port Oswego. This becomes the mystery that is mentioned on the cover, as Naomi begins to look for more details as to just what happened in the town’s past.
Jamal Campbell’s art captures the adoration Port Oswego has for Superman, but Campbell’s takes on these smaller moments really give life to the characters. Campbell gives a lot of personality to Naomi’s facial expressions and body language, making her come alive. Campbell’s use of color creates some sublime imagery, such as the sunsoaked evening Naomi and her friends spend in in a park. The use of Ben Day dots in some of the shading gives the art an additional layer to spend time with.
One minor quibble I had with the art was Naomi’s hair. While Campbell gives great attention to the detail in her braids — giving Naomi a look few if any characters in the Big 2 have, there are a few odd panels that didn’t quite work for me. This is due to the way the fleshtone goes right to the base of her braids, as if she doesn’t have any additional hair. Maybe her edges are just that clean. This is a relatively small inconsistency, however, as in most panels, Naomi’s hair looks perfectly natural.
Is it good?
Naomi #1 is a debut that hits the ground running. Bendis, Walker, and Campbell have a fascinating protagonist that draws readers right in. In particular, Campbell’s art and the handling of the therapy sessions make Naomi #1 stand out as something new and fresh on the stands. And while the mystery is only getting started, it already looks like a good one.
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