From writers Brian Michael Bendis and David Walker and artist Jamal Campbell comes an all-new character to the DC Universe with the Wonder Comics series Naomi. This hardcover collects issues #1-6 of Naomi, along with some early designs and page sketches from the series that should be of interest to readers who are eager to see more of Naomi’s adventures and this team’s creative process.
One of the best things about this series is how it takes ideas we’ve seen before and turns them on their head in fun and relevant ways. Seeing how a normal town would deal with an invasion of extraterrestrial forces is nothing new, but Naomi takes the tactic of showing us specifically how the Snapchat generation would react to a brush with super heroics. Namely, everyone would have a video clip of the action and a “hot take” on what really happened, and everyone would quickly be entirely over it.
There are a few points in the story where I feel like Naomi really benefits from being in collected format. There are a lot of people talking in circles (even when compared to some of Bendis’ other dialogue-heavy books) that can occasionally feel more than a little frustrating. I know that’s the point, especially when we’re supposed to feel just as gaslighted as Naomi herself does, but occasionally it veers into the annoying for this reader.
Also, as much as I appreciate slow burn origin stories (I adore Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man), it honestly feels like this story ends right when it’s about to get going. This is something of a double-edged sword, because it does open up many possibilities for the future, but it can also leave the audience feeling like more questions were asked than answered. Some of this can be traced back to the marketing for this series that promised “The Secret History of the DC Universe,” when in actuality, it’s something more akin to “something that happened in the DC Universe several years ago.”
Still, the amount of synergy between this book and the other Wonder Comics titles is admirable, especially given how it never feels forced. The references to the many, many Crises dividing the universe and the presence of Gemworld in one brief section is enough to get this reader excited about the attempts at a shared line that doesn’t beat you over the head with references. In that sense especially, the world building in Naomi is admirable.
Still, the place where the book shines the most is in its characters. Naomi herself is a revelation, since she’s one of the very few “chosen one” type characters who don’t go through the usual motions of immediately stepping up and proving that she’s better than everyone else. Naomi reacts to her situation in the way any person would, particularly a teenager: she’s elated, she’s terrified, and she wants to tell her best friend immediately, instead of sticking around for more face time with her parents. It’s a very realistic response to otherworldly revelations that I greatly appreciated.
Naomi’s family is likewise well-defined. Her dad is a lovable goof who may just be a total badass (he knows Adam Strange, after all) and her mother is easily the most intimidating character in the series, in a good way. They both come across as completely believable in their attempts to shield their daughter from the horrors of the world and of her own unknown past. Even when they get violent, there’s never a sense that they’re overreacting. Major kudos to Bendis and and Walker for finding the right balance there!
The action sequences, though few, are uniformly spectacular. Jamal Campbell has an eye for spectacle, with every fight seeming nearly apocalyptic, even when its a skirmish on a football field. Characters move through the page with different weights to them. You can clearly see when someone is more of a bruiser and less graceful. The main antagonist, in particular, has an almost oafish glee about him, imposing his mass on the page and smashing anything in his way. It’s easy to see why a whole world fell to him.
The colors in this book are gorgeous, perfectly paired with both the cosmic battles and the chill Port Oswego atmosphere. The city has a lived-in feel, but is still light and sunny. It stands in such stark contrast to the ruined planets, blazing skies, and dark caves we see in later parts of the story, yet it all feels like the cohesive work of one artist. It’s easy to feel ecstatic for Nami when we see her realize her potential for the first time, because the joy in her face matches the brilliant light display she’s letting off.
Naomi accomplishes the rare feat in a book from one of the major companies in that it introduces an entirely new character who perfectly fits in with the established lore of the universe, yet feels like she could also stand perfectly on her own.
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