There’s a new kid in town. Naomi, fresh from the pages of her debut mini-series, comes looking for Superman. And she’s not wasted a moment…this is the day she discovered she has powers. This is the day she finds she can fly.
And this is the day she makes a friend.
As it turns out, Batman soon ceases to scare Naomi.
And there’s another hero in the Hall of Justice, the Atom, in his civvies.
Superman, on alert for Leviathan, leaves to investigate something he hears. It’s the mystery woman who goes by ‘Red Cloud’ , menacing the Thorn in an underworld bar. Superman is surprised to find Red Cloud is no longer a relative pushover.
End chapter, roll titles.
Brian Michael Bendis sometimes teaches comic book writing. Here’s an issue he could easily hand over to his students as a textbook example of how to juggle your own plotlines alongside the demands of inter-company continuity. Specifically, Bendis serves the DC-wide Year of the Villain stunt by having his existing character, Red Cloud, upgraded by Lex Luthor – it happened a couple of issues back – making her a viable threat to Superman.
Meanwhile he keeps the pot boiling on Action’s own ongoing storyline, the Leviathan mystery, by including Rose and the Thorn, who turned down a chance to work for the antagonist, putting her on Superman’s radar.
And the main action sees small town kid Naomi introduced to the wider DC Universe by meeting three Justice Leaguers and, in Wonder Twins Zan and Jayna, two trusted teen heroes.
It’s a commendable feat of comics craft – Naomi has the main spotlight, the Bat Signal, as it were, but Year of the Villain and Leviathan are firmly in the super-troupers.
In a world in which teen superheroes are constantly getting it wrong >cough Damian Wayne cough< it’s refreshing to see Naomi act eminently sensibly – when life goes from the everyday to cosmic crisis, she seeks out Superman.
And as well as being the hero she needs, Superman is the role model we all need – open, welcoming, trusting and always quick to handle the clean-up.
Bendis surprises, though, by showing us that as well as being an angel of light, Naomi has something of creature of the night about her, just a little spot of Batman darkness. It hadn’t occurred to me that Naomi’s origin has commonality with both the World’s Finest Heroes without being a copy of either – brilliant.
Speaking of the Dark Knight Detective, Batman being considered just the guy to make a new teen hero feel comfortable is hilarious.
This issue does get one demerit for Clark Kent, a journalist if you please, using the nonsense phrase ‘very unique’. I 110% hate that. (Happily ‘110%’ appears nowhere in this issue.)
Just as Bendis conveys in words the wonder felt by a young woman who has just learned that she has amazing powers, artist Szymon Kudranski evokes it in his art – that opening spread, coloured by the excellent Brad Anderson, is superb, with Metropolis looking every bit as magical as Naomi’s newfound energy signature.
As great as the scenes of Naomi tapping into her power are, the fight with Red Cloud may be even better, with Superman visibly straining to stop the Invisible Mafia enforcer amidst a sea of crimson.
I like that when Superman makes a hole, it’s S-shield shaped.
And the quieter moments look equally good… has Ray Palmer ever looked quite so pensive? Bless Ray, for thinking Naomi might recognise her birthworld when all he’s showing her are circles bearing numbers.
Regular letterer Rob Leigh is absent this time, but Dave Sharpe does him proud with a perfect rendering of the script. And illustrator David Marquez and colourist Alejándro Sanchez give us a joyously old school cover, with my one note being that Naomi’s dreads looks just a little too gorgon.
I don’t know if the Naomi plotline involving the world-destroying Zumbada (oh please may we just call him ‘Zumba’?) is to be tied up in Action Comics or whether it will weave back into Naomi’s upcoming second series – a DC Comics Presents Special heralding that much-missed book’s return would be perfect – but I’m all in. At this stage, Action Comics is my favourite DC book, and it’s issues like this that have made it so.