Review: Naomi: Season Two hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

June 4, 2023

There was a lot to like about the first comics “season” of Naomi, largely a “cozy” origin tale told by way of stories. A notable lack of superhero punch-’em-ups until the very, very end might otherwise have been a boon, except for the hype surrounding Naomi and its ties to the larger DC Universe which ultimately didn’t at all manifest. What otherwise might have been a nice change of pace disappointed mainly because it was what it was and not what we were lead to believe it would be.

With Naomi Season Two, much of that pressure is off, and the book is better for it. No great revelations are promised, and so in that way the book can’t fail expectations, instead delivering what we know now Naomi does best — family drama with a scant few action sequences for good measure.

Season Two is a nice diversion, where co-writer Brian Michael Bendis (with David Walker) seems more comfortable than he does on Justice League; it’s a wash which “season” is better, except that Season One is well redeeemed through the lens of Season Two. The whole package will make a nice omnibus some day, particularly if Bendis' painstakingly mapped-out guest appearances for Naomi between the two seasons are also included.

[Review contains spoilers for the Naomi comic and TV show]

I noted in my review of Bendis' Justice League Vol. 2: United Order that Naomi’s father seemed unusually overprotective in that comic, particularly because we now know him to be a former Rannian soldier. To the extent that Bendis has been exceptionally careful charting where each of Naomi’s guest appearances fit in her overall timeline, the disconnect between the older, frumpier Greg McDuffie under Phil Hester, Scott Godlewski, and others' pens in Justice League and dashing, young Greg McDuffie by Jamal Campbell in Naomi is surprising.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

Indeed, the overprotectiveness introduced in Justice League is reflected in Naomi Season Two, but it doesn’t all feel as of a piece because of the difference in how Greg is drawn. I wonder if indeed that’s all due to the artists and my perception of the characters thereof, or if Greg McDuffie as written by Bendis solo in Justice League is indeed different than Greg as written by Bendis and Walker, which seems the other big difference beside the artists.

Outside of Naomi’s encounters with villains from her homeworld, outside of cameos by various members of the Justice League, Season Two is largely Naomi and Greg’s story1. Many a family drama has been made of “father can’t handle his little girl growing up” and there are shades of that here, though at issue seems mainly to be that Greg knows enough about war to believe his daughter isn’t ready. That’s different than Clark Kent being rather all too eager to teach his son to use his super-powers or Bruce Wayne grounding Damian because he perceives him too violent, and I thought the concept of father projecting his trauma as his daughter goes off to battle was an interesting one.

Naomi Season One was an insular story as it went — Naomi discovering her powers, learning her father’s story, and so on. There’s still no shortage of navel-gazing here — what really seems Naomi does best — but clearly there’s a theme of external change, as presented to Naomi very specifically by the Justice League. There seems never a question of Naomi hiding her identity (a difference from the CW television show), and so now Naomi has to deal with the all-encompassing specter of public perception.

This goes well enough — kids stop and stare, but the biggest high school drama is a student apologizing for having said “inappropriate” things about Naomi in the past (one wonders what exactly this was). But late in the book, matters ramp up a tad when a fight with Zumbado wrecks sections of Naomi’s hometown. A (suspicious-seeming?) man in a tie lodges some angry critiques, and I’m curious what the next phase of this might be, how straight-A do-gooder Naomi might deal with being labeled a menace by those either legitimately concerned or using outrage to their own ends.

Curiously, Bendis and Walker never seem to have the characters contemplate Naomi hiding her identity. This is unusual for the superhero set (particularly the teen superhero set), but not perhaps for the half of the writing team that saw Superman let loose the DCU’s biggest secret. And yet, the book still seems to take for granted that Naomi has to hide the alien origins of her father and the Thanagarian Dee, which feel like they shouldn’t be so controversial all things considered. Naomi does most of this lying to her therapist and her therapist stops seeing her in the end, which was surprising enough that I wondered if there was something more to be gleaned from all of that.

I was impressed with how willing the Naomi TV show was to differ from the comic, from Zumbado not (seeming, at least) to be a villain to the cliffhanger ending regarding Naomi’s adoptive parents. To what extent the Naomi show took cues from some bible for the Naomi comic or Naomi Season Two reacted to the show, I don’t know, but I thought that in the comic, both the characters Dee and Akira benefitted from the extra spotlight given to them by the show. I don’t think two “seasons” of the Naomi comic have had enough time to define Dee’s place in the story, but the show made clearer what they were going for.

A piece of trivia to leave you with: there are no shortage of websites that will tell you that Naomi’s superhero codename is “Powerhouse,” and I kept waiting for the moment in Naomi Season Two when that becomes official. It never does. Pretty sure I’ve read all of Naomi’s appearances across the DCU, and I think this stems from Naomi using the word herself once in Justice League Vol. 1: Prisms and then Aquaman repeating it as a nickname, but I’m not convinced that was intended to stick since it’s never used again. Any chance this is an instance of one site misinterpreting that scene and the rest repeating it, without anyone seeking out an original source?

2.25

Rating

With Brian Michael Bendis seemingly gone from DC and Naomi off in limbo, I’ll be curious where or if we see the hero again. I’d read a third “season,” if it ever came about.

[Includes original and variant covers]


  1. Jennifer McDuffie, the non-“super” of the family, is much again in the background, and I wonder if another “season” might have featured her more prominently.  ↩︎

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