Naomi's core premise is about a young woman trying to solve a mystery about herself, a question about identity and purpose. The series' title character wants to know who she is, driven by a seemingly delusional hope that she's more important than she actually seems to be. It's an intriguing mystery, one not tethered to any approaching calamity (although this issue hints at that too) but rather personal revelation and a bit of a meta-narrative as the seemingly normal Naomi is given her own title during a time when DC Comics seems to be scaling its line back. Both Naomi and the reader want to know whether this young adopted woman is somehow important to the grand scheme of the DC Universe, or if she's just found a little string to follow as she explores the past of her small town in Oregon.
Naomi #3 takes its first baby step towards answering this question with the revelation that two residents of the town aren't actually from this planet. What's more, we hear hints of phrases like the Multiverse and Thanagar and Gemworld, these big important concepts and settings in the DC Universe that have popped up periodically in recent months. Thanagar and the Multiverse both played heavily in Dark Knights: Metal while Gemworld recently appeared in Brian Michael Bendis's Young Justice. Is there some sort of connection, or is Bendis, David Walker, and Jamal Campbell just playing with reader expectation as they slowly weave this masterful tale about a mystery that might not actually exist?
In some ways, Naomi reminds me a lot of the ABC TV series LOST, another series driven equally by strong intriguing characters and a vague mystery constantly lurking in the background. We care about Naomi, she and her parents and the mechanic Dee are nuanced, interesting characters, but what brings people back every month is this strange hint of a greater story lurking in the background. Bendis has promised that Naomi is an important book, and there's these vague clues teased in the issue, but most of the pages are filled with frustrating tantalization and possible red herrings, or of Naomi simply trying to figure out if she's connected to the extraterrestrial weirdness that she's uncovered. The parallels between LOST and Naomi get even stronger this issue, as characters promise to reveal all but only leave things more confusing than before. After all, there is a Thanagarian special forces soldier simply hanging out in this small Oregonian town, but we have no idea whether he's actually connected to the plot. He's the polar bear running through the jungle; a strange creature trapped far from home.
One thing that I really enjoy about Naomi beyond its delightfully slow burn is that the book isn't moving forward through any sort of action. This is a comic that takes place in a superhero universe, but has only the barest taste of superhero action or drama. The story is driven entirely by internal forces instead of by an external threat, and it makes Naomi feel really fresh after reading through a small stack of comics that use variations of the same superhero stories we've read over and over again. This is a mystery comic, but not like other mystery comics DC has published in recent years, where said enigma is centered around who killed one or multiple minor characters in an extraordinarily brutal fashion.
Naomi feels like a special comic, although it's sadly still too soon to say for certain. The book is excellently written and illustrated, and even the pacing is very consistent, albeit frustratingly slow at times. I have a feeling that by the end of the first arc, everyone will be talking about Naomi, although it all depends on what mystery its central character ends up revealing.
Published by Wonder Comics, part of DC Comics
On March 20, 2019
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker0comments
Art by Jamal Campbell
Letters by Josh Reed