THIS REVIEW OF ‘NAOMI’ #2 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Clyde Hall. Secret origins. Younger reader appeal is knowing what nobody else in a superhero’s reality does: Who they really are. Add in how and why they embarked on their crime-fighting adventures, and you boost entertainment value exponentially. Secret origins have even been the focus of ongoing titles, a way for companies to profit while recapping the etymology of established heroes for those just joining the party. ‘Amazing Origin Issue!’ splayed across a cover increased company hopes for a new title making bank. With Wonder Comics’ Naomi #2, writers Brian Michael Bendis and David F. Walker are using another proven origin strategy, one often reserved for villains (but not always): The origin itself is a mystery. A secret Secret Origin, one that this creative team crafts superbly.
Two issues in, a tempered tale unfolds with precise pace, building interest and investment with few revelations. Yet. Naomi continues to fixate on an extremely brief super-scuffle in her home of Port Oswego, Oregon in issue #1. She’s always been fascinated with Superman yet missed the fleeting moment when his battle against Mongul landed both on Main Street for a handful of moments. Brief, but a Big Happening for the quiet community.
Naomi also missed Superman’s short return the following day to help clear damage. Frustration peaks when there’s a mention of something superhero-related happening in Port Oswego years before. She gets blank stares and FOAF tidbits when she inquires. Until she talks to local mechanic Dee. He knows exactly when the earlier event occurred. And it’s the same day, seventeen years earlier, that Naomi was adopted.
Along with the mysterious origin, Bendis and Walker use the orphan trope. Naomi’s adopted, the closed variety so no information is known or shared regarding her birth parents. #2 picks up with Dee refusing to elaborate. Her foster parents, while loving and supportive, also have nothing to contribute about the previous superhero incident, Dee, or Naomi’s actual parents. Dreams filled with superhero conflict continue to plague the teen, and she again confronts Dee. Is she somehow connected to him and the incident seventeen years before?
This issue builds on the idyllic Port Oswego. It’s not perfect. Local characters add color, and gossip is a favorite pastime. But artist Jamal Campbell shines by making it a lived-in, attractive locale. Campbell’s work here is what realty companies and Chambers of Commerce kill for in their brochures.
But secreted between the picket fences, something’s going on. Naomi senses it. Bendis, Walker, and Campbell make us feel it: Port Oswego may have more in common with Portmeirion than Smallville. Superman busts up a street, yet not even local news mentions it? Residents have limited, selective recollections and seem unconcerned. Superman plops into town. Twice. Almost everyone gets a glimpse except Naomi? Cruel twists of Fate, or covert, intentional design? Dee the mechanic is known around town sparingly, despite being massive enough to rate his own zip code and being intimidatingly memorable. Nobody in a small community would respond, “Huh? Who?” when asked about him. Someone’s covering something up, and Naomi’s digging like an exasperated teen with an industrial backhoe. As readers, we’re watching over her shoulder and yelling over the engine for her to dig deeper.
Page layouts for #2, again with praise for Jamal Campbell, flow to keep a story short on sprawling action sequences stylishly propelled. When expanding into super-battle visions, they’re as arresting as quieter moments over dinner with parents or online chats with a bestie. Carlos M. Mangual’s letters are also subdued, his sound effects credibly adding the audible layer of a quiet town. A skateboard on pavement. Clinking of a chain link fence. Overhead garage door settling with an impact of finality.
It isn’t necessarily the novelty of the creative team’s narrative approach in Naomi #2 that makes it a great addition to the series, and to the overall excellent Wonder Comics line of titles thus far. Ask fans of Twin Peaks about the power of secret origin mysteries. Talk with young adults who grew up reading Harry Potter to see if they maybe-sorta identified with that orphan on some level. The bliss this book bestows comes from how deftly the team works them. They also make their main character a decent, relatable kid. A teen with questions and issues, sure, but we like her and we’re on her side. Naomi isn’t the typical DC origin tale, with character definition before powers and reveals. Walker and Bendis make it all the stronger with this tact.
If patience isn’t your virtue of choice, the pace of #2 may put you off. Good news, Bendis has released cover art for issue #6 revealing a uniformed Naomi backed by members of Young Justice and the League. Oh, we’re getting some answers in the next few issues. Just you wait.
Wonder Comics / DC / $3.99
Written by Brian Michael Bendis and David F. Walker.
Illustrated by Jamal Campbell.
Letters by Carlos M. Mangual.
8 out of 10
Check out this 5-page preview of ‘Naomi’ #2, courtesy of Wonder Comics and DC!