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REVIEW: Naomi #1 is a Beautiful But Flawed Debut

Story by
Art by
Jamal Campbell
Colors by
Jamal Campbell
Letters by
Josh Reed
Cover by
Publisher
DC Comics

Naomi #1 is by no means a bad comic, but its central mystery isn't the most compelling... yet. This, of course, could change in a moment's notice, and it almost does in the final page of the issue.

The cover touts the beginning of the "biggest new mystery in the DC Universe," but it feels like it might be a case of putting the cart before the horse. A mystery needs to have some burning question that no one can quite answer, but Naomi #1 has a tinge of intrigue at best. There isn't some huge "what happened that night" sort of scenario out on main street like there is in other DC mystery stories like Identity Crisis. If anything, this issue feels more like a story of self-discovery than a history-altering epic.

But while the mystery falls a bit flat (which, again, could change in subsequent issues), the concept of superhero celebrity is handled rather well. The way our titular hero and her group of friends discuss a Superman sighting in their town echoes how people discuss seeing a movie star randomly popping up in their little neck of the woods. There's an air of mystique and excitement surrounding the instance, along with debate about over whether his presence does more harm than good. All of dialogue and character moments surrounding this notion is great and almost overshadows the personal quest of our hero.

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Naomi #1 is not a traditional heroes and capes story, but it is mired in that world. Superman is intrinsic to this story, despite not having any dialogue. The Man of Steel is presented almost as a force of nature, which he kind of is when you consider his broad impact on smaller corners of his world. He's a novelty, a shooting star, a chance encounter. This realization elevates his godly status even higher, and makes any sort of obsession over Superman feel completely warranted.

The biggest problem with what is supposed to be the mystery of this story is that it's centered on a character we don't really get to know very well. Naomi is almost a cipher. Sure, she's likable, but outside of that, writers Brain Michael Bendis (Superman, Action Comics) and David F. Walker (Luke CageBitter Root) don't give readers much to grab on to in terms of really falling in love with her. If the mystery of self-discovery is what this series is going to be about, it needs to show us why we should be invested in Naomi, and this first issue doesn't quite make that happen.

To be fair, Bendis doesn't always sprint out the gate. He's a marathon man, and I could be singing a different tune in a few months. And with a talented writer like Walker (seriously, go read Bitter Root; it's awesome) working with him, this will most likely be the case. These guys know how to write great characters and are amazing at building a foundation of trust between their characters and the readers, especially in the superhero genre.

So how's the art? Gorgeous. If nothing else, Naomi #1 is worth the cover price just for the artwork. Jamal Campbell (Prowler, all those amazing Star Wars covers) is fantastic. The double-page spread of Superman fighting Mongul in the streets of Naomi's small town is breathtaking. It encapsulates the grandeur of what super heroics can be, and is rendered with a level of detail and care you wish all superhero comics had. Campbell is on fire, even when he's illustrating a bunch of kids standing around having a conversation. His character designs are vibrant, and his colors are lush.

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At the end of the day, Naomi #1 isn't a complete wash. There is a lot to like, here. The art is beautiful, there are some great ideas buried in its pages, and the writing team has a pretty solid track record. That said, and I don't often feel this way, but Naomi #1 would have benefited from being a double-sized issue. Give us 48 pages to get to know this girl. Or, perhaps, if the writing team was to condense some of the long-winded dialogue exchanges that don't really propel the story forward, they may have hooked me in 22 pages. Even with these issues, though, Naomi #1 show promise, and I'm excited to see what comes next. Huge comic moments have been born from rather small events -- it just seems silly to advertise it.

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