Review: DC's Naomi: Season 1

The new hero on the block?

Written by Brian Michael Bendis & David F. Walker, Art by Jamal Campbell.

When comic writer Brian Michael Bendis made the big switch from Marvel to DC back in 2017, it wasn't only Superman he kept himself busy with. Two years later in 2019, he launched Wonder Comics an imprint focusing on DC's young, teen heroes. It launched with the high-profile relaunch of the Young Justice comic series (not to be confused with the Young Justice TV show) which were later followed up by a re-launch of Dial H for Hero and Wonder Twins and the subject of today's review: Naomi. While Bendis's Superman run has proven to be a bit controversial, his work on with Wonder Comics was nothing but. Young Justice was lauded for bringing back a sense of optimism and fun that had been lacking at DC for quite some time. Naomi meanwhile was praised for both how personal and different the story was in comparison to most other superhero titles.

I read both when they first came out and enjoyed them greatly. I've already done a review on those first few issues of Young Justice, the trade that is, and now I feel it's time to do the same with Naomi. More accurately Naomi: Season 1. Unlike its brother, Naomi wasn't an ongoing but a 6-issue limited series. After it had concluded, Brian Michael Bendis confirmed that it wasn't the end for Naomi and that apart from a bunch of guest appearances in Detective Comics and Young Justice, a 'season 2' would be coming as well. Fast forward to the present and that 2nd series has yet to materialize. That most of the Wonder Comics titles have since been cancelled doesn't bode too well for the series but I digress. This piece is about that 1st series and we'll just have to wait and see when it comes to Naomi's future. 

Now, without further ado, let's dive in and see why exactly DC's Naomi resonated so well with so many people!

In a small town in the States, nothing special ever happens. It's an ordinary town in an ordinary place where ordinary people live that do ordinary things. Nothing ever special happens there until, that is, the town is shaken up by the Man of Steel himself. He crashes through the main street of the town while fighting the alien warlord Mongul and even though it lasts only a few seconds, it has a big impact on the town and its citizens. It arguably has the most impact on young Naomi McDuffie the resident Superman super-fan. She has idolized the Man of Tomorrow from a young age. Not because of his superpowers like most, but because he's adopted just like her. Her adoption is something that she has struggled with for years and Superman's appearance and the talk with her therapist about it opens up that bottle of emotions once more. When she hears that the Superman/Mongul fight might not have been the only 'weird thing' that happened in town she goes to investigate, only to find that this previous occurrence might have something to do with her adoption.

Before doing somewhat of a deep-dive into the series, let's first get the 'surface elements' out of the way. The art and lettering. The artwork is of high quality and very pleasing. It has a realistic take, especially when it comes to the faces of the characters, while simultaneously having unrealistic elements like giant body proportions that don't feel out of place in the slightest. A type of blend that I personally quite like and is, as I said, quite pleasing for many.

The lettering, and with that I mean both the quality, quantity and placement of the dialogue, is good as well though I do have some nit-picks. Mainly that there's a lot of dialogue here.

Now, it's all well-written dialogue that is decently spaced throughout but that doesn't mean that there are moments that there's just to much dialogue on the page to shift through. I took a few breathers while reading, just because I saw another lap of text coming and didn't quite feel like reading yet choosing to take a little more time to admire the art instead.

One of the things that I noticed when reading the issues for this review, back to back, is how its structure is very akin to that of older comics. In the modern age of comics, a lot of emphasis has been placed on the idea that each issue is part of a larger story. As a result of this, the three-act structure of beginning-middle-end have become less clear, can hurt the quality let me tell you. I've read many issues in which the 'beginning' was nothing more than just a panel or two and, where the end was cut off as a means to keep you coming back leaving the actual end very unsatisfying. While there are cliffhangers in this story, each issue still ends satisfyingly. These are, for the most part, individual issues that may advance a continuing storyline, but are also contained stories in their own right and I quite enjoy it. The pacing itself is a bit off at places, there are moments early on where the story feel unnecessarily uncompressed and the final issue feels too compressed, but those are only minor issues.

As said in the introduction, the series has received a lot of praise for the characterization of Naomi herself. Naomi is a big part of why this series feels so different than the most other comics in the genre and why it feels like a breath of fresh air. I don´t want to give to much away when it comes to the story itself, it´s best experienced like that, and with how intertwined Naomi is whit the story talking about her without giving to much away is a tad difficult. What I can tell you, however, is that she is a very well realized, likeable character whose very personal journey will no doubt resonate with you.

Naomi isn't the only character in the book, naturally, and while she is the star this doesn't mean that the others don't have time to shine. Bendis uses the small cast to its advantage and gives each and everyone one of the important characters their own personality, voice and story small as they might be. I especially liked the dynamic between Naomi and her adopted parents and how much they struggled with the question about Naomi's origin just as much as she did, just in a different way.

The world-building is also stellar. While the story starts small but cosy, the and it only increases in scope to longer it goes on. While this can be daunting, it's done organically enough that you never feel lost nor that it results in a 'whiplash' while reading.

Wow. Way to kill the mood there girl!

I do have one issue with the mystery though. It's predictable. Considering you've all season the cover of the trade I don't think it's a spoiler to say that Naomi ends up having superpowers. It's what we all expected and why we started reading it in the first place. It's a superhero story and we read those for the superheroes. I wouldn't have had (as much of) an issue with this though if the story hadn't presented itself with a solution that might have just been even more intriguing and would have fit the tone. Talking about what that is would spoil too much I feel, but there's no doubt in my mind that while reading the story you will think of this alternative solution as well.

Conclusion

DC's Naomi: Season 1 is an exceptional book. It tells the very human story of a young girl wanting to know more of her true parentage while trying to come to terms with that she might never truly know the whole story of why she was put up for adoption all in front of a superhero backdrop. Naomi herself is a great character and this very personal story she goes on is what carries to book and what makes it stand out amongst its superhero peers. Bendis & Walker have a lot more in store for Naomi, some of which has already come to fruition in other titles, and I sure hope that we get to see it continue to grow.

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