This year, DC Comics launched Wonder Comics, an extension of the comics giant featuring a slate of titles geared toward teenage readers. With Wonder Comics’ latest series “Naomi,” writers Brian Michael Bendis and David F. Walker, and artist Jamal Campbell tell an original story about the titular Superman super-fan and her hometown’s long-brewing mystery. There’s not one false note in the series’ debut issue, which clips along at a perfect pace and exposits efficiently.
The issue opens with a visit from the Man of Steel himself, as an intergalactic battle brings him smashing into Naomi’s hometown of Port Oswego (unlike recent cinematic depictions, Supes comes back to clean up the damage). The ordeal, an occurrence that a bustling city like Metropolis would take for granted, becomes the talk of the town. It brings to light Naomi’s deep affinity for Superman — they’re both orphans and she dreams of the possibility that she’ll become someone special like him. Naomi just might, as she’s on the cusp of uncovering a super-heroic secret buried beneath her hometown’s humdrum facade.
Bendis is known for creating new characters within an established mythos — alongside Sara Pichelli and Mike Deodato, respectively, Bendis co-created the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man and Tony Stark’s successor to the Iron Man mantle, Riri Williams (AKA Ironheart). However, in co-creating Riri Williams, he’s also caught fire for trying to write the perspective of a Black female character as a white man.
Since Naomi is a Black, queer female character, it’s an incremental sign of progress within the comics industry that David F. Walker — whose Image Comics series “Bitter Root” should be on your pull list — lends the series some necessary perspective as a Black writer.
Of course, the comics industry still has much to do before it can claim to be a space of equality for creators of any gender or sexual orientation — the onus falls on publishers to hire Black, queer female writers for projects like “Naomi.” But for what it is, “Naomi” #1 succeeds as DC Comics’ newest venture.
Within one issue, we’re completely invested in Naomi’s inner life. Her yearning to rise above her small town’s uneventful confines is a well-trodden hero’s journey trope, but the issue is never bogged down by a sense of predictability. If anything, Walker and Bendis cleverly leave behind a trail of breadcrumbs, and the mystery that Naomi stumbles upon proves to be wholly intriguing.
A second issue can’t come soon enough, not least because of Jamal Campbell’s mesmerizing artwork. There’s an effervescence to the art that underscores the comic’s youthful energy, and the way that Campbell incorporates light is particularly noteworthy. Even in the drab office of a therapist, the sun casts a hopeful glow that suggests the bright future of DC Comics’ latest hero — even if she doesn’t wear a cape.
Given the warm reception to Wonder Comics’ flagship series, Bendis’ nostalgia-infused “Young Justice,” the debut issue of “Naomi” only adds to the new imprint’s strong start. Even for older readers, “Naomi” is worth picking up, especially for DC fans looking for a break from the epic escapades of the publisher’s classic superheroes. Ever since a universe-wide rebirth in 2016, DC Comics has been on a roll, and “Naomi” is just the latest evidence of it.
Harrison Tunggal covers comic books. Contact him at [email protected].