***DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU!***
THE ORIGIN OF NAOMI CONCLUDES!
Somewhere across the multiverse, on a planet not unlike our own, decades of environmental abuse weakened the atmosphere to such a degree that cosmic radiation of unknown origin bathed the Earth, bestowing incredible powers to a mere twenty-nine people!
Two of those people were Naomi's parents. But, fearful for their daughter's safety after the horrific Zumbado declared he had to kill her - and all others of the empowered - to codify his own superiority, they enacted a desperate plan to send their infant girl across the multiverse... and thus, she arrived on our world.
But now that Naomi is grown and has discovered her powers, Zumbado is back to finish what he started!
Now that Naomi’s origin story has concluded, the question remains: is this title’s foundation firm enough for the story to move forward with his central mystery/conceit resolved?
Alas, those answers will have to wait until next issue. This one’s strictly for the conclusion of Naomi’s backstory, and if you read it and thought it fell a little flat… well, you’re not alone. It’s not necessarily the lack of originality that Bendis and Walker put into the reveal that stifles what should have felt like a huge revelation, rather, it’s the Bendis trope of having characters info-dump their story rather than just showing the reader the events in question. I’m a big believer in the “show, don’t tell” policy of conveying information to readers in a visual media, and like it or not, comics are a visual medium first and by their very essence are built for visual conveyance of information.
In a nutshell, that means that the audience will (should) connect with a narrative on a far deeper and more meaningful level if they feel like they’re along for the ride that is the story and can empathize with the POV character, rather than sitting in class and being lectured about the who-what-when-where-how-why of said events. Bendis has for years now had a little trick of somewhat subverting that trope by utilizing his staccato, David Mamet-esque dialogue to convey information in a more conversational manner (rather than the point-by-point info dumps of old, which often ate up multiple pages of story in a single issue), and depending on the comic, has been mostly successful to one degree or another. But by having Naomi listening to a recording her parents made for her detailing who she is and where she came from, Bendis is effectively robbing the audience of Naomi’s first-hand response to this new information, choosing instead to utilize a cold open with Naomi charging headfirst into her friend Annabelle and reacting in kind before we even fully understand what she’s specifically reacting to. It’s an inverted approach designed to jar readers rather than invite smoothly-flowing storytelling.
But, amazingly, it all still works for the most part, thanks mostly to Jamal Campbell’s untouchably pristine art. Bendis and Walker wisely step back and give him room to spread his wings, giving him multiple double-splash pages to really show off what he can do. Yet it never feels as though this issue is just a series of pin-ups.
My only other real complaint is the antagonist, Zumbado. Granted, we haven’t been given much to work with for him yet, but so far he’s pretty much a carbon copy of another recent Bendis villain, Superman foil Rogol Zaar. They’re both big, muscular cretins without much in the way of motives or character development; rather, they’re really just there to give the hero something to punch until the inevitable deeper reveal. Like I said, though, it’s still pretty early running for Zumbado, so hopefully I’m wrong.
Stumbling blocks aside, though, this is still an extremely solid issue, unlike anything else on the stands today. To get back to my original pondering: will this book have legs now that its central mystery has been resolved? Given the strength of the character work so far, paired with the out-of-this-world artistry of Jamal Campbell, I’d without hesitation say “hell yes!”
Naomi continues to be a gem of a comic to behold, even it doesn't quite stick the landing this issue with its origin reveal. Regardless, it's gorgeous, and shouldn't be missed!
Naomi #5: From a Crisis, There Shall Come… Life
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 7.5/107.5/10
Art - 10/1010/10
Color - 10/1010/10
Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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