Naomi review: Ava DuVernay updates a DC comic for a world without Superman

The CW’s Arrowverse has actually been on the subside over the previous couple of years, with Arrow, Black Lightning, Constantine, and Supergirl covering, and viewership for the staying programs mainly trending downward. At the very same time, superhero programs and franchises in basic appear to be significantly targeted at generational styles and passing-the-torch stories, with more youthful, hipper, more varied heroes like Miles Morales in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Kate Bishop on Hawkeye, and Kamala Khan in the upcoming Ms. Marvel taking the spotlight from tradition heroes.

Those 2 patterns together might discuss the brand-new CW program Naomi, about a high-school woman consumed with Superman, and how she finds her own superpowers and super-legacy. The program is another DC Comics adjustment, however it’s likewise an extension of a thread going through superhero media in basic, as showrunners and filmmakers experiment with reenvisioning older characters and archetypes in manner ins which make them pertinent to more youthful audiences. It’s likewise a cautious action far from the Arrowverse — a series that’s leaving its tie-in choices open, however not yet dedicating to being part of a larger connection outside its own superhero story.

What is Naomi?

Naomi, her friend Annabelle, and her crush object Lourdes stand together with their arms crossed in Naomi

Picture: Danny Delgado/The CW

In DC Comics connection, Naomi McDuffie is a superhero presented in the 2019 miniseries Naomi, composed by Brian Michael Bendis and David F. Walker, and drawn by Jamal Campbell. In the six-issue initial arc, Naomi ends up being conscious of abnormalities around her adoption, and challenges her moms and dads and a couple of other figures in her little neighborhood up until she gets some shocking responses about where she originated from, and what that suggests for her future. Naomi continued her comics profession, embracing the hero name Powerhouse, through arcs in Action Comics, Justice League, and Young Justice, to name a few titles. The Naomi comic is arranged to continue with a brand-new arc on March 8.

Naomi the CW series begins in the very same location as that very first arc, however diverges substantially from Bendis and Walker’s comic in the setup. In specific, it begins the protagonist off in a more ordinary world where superheroes obviously don’t exist. In its very first season, a minimum of, Naomi won’t occur in the very same connection as the other Arrowverse programs — though provided The CW’s history of DC Universe crossovers in all its superhero series, it stays to be seen whether that’ll apply with time.

Who’s behind Naomi the program?

Naomi is a task from Range Filmworks, the circulation business established by Selma and When They See United States director Ava DuVernay. DuVernay and showrunner Jill Blankenship (an author and executive manufacturer on Arrow) are credited as the film writers and executive manufacturers. Bendis and Walker offered the reveal their true blessing, however aren’t associated with its production.

What’s the Naomi pilot about?

Naomi McDuffie (Kaci Walfall) is a 16-year-old woman who’s so widely popular, practically everybody in her little Pacific Northwest town enthusiastically welcomes her on sight, whether she’s travelling into a house party, skateboarding to school past a range of wholesomely beaming regional shop-owners, or talking to individuals for her Superman fan website, the third-most-popular Superman website on the planet. The only individuals who never ever appear pleased to see her are Zumbado (Cranston Johnson), the glowering owner of a used-car lot, and Dee (Alexander Wraith), a tattoo artist who appears more cautious than resentful around her.

Naomi likewise has a great deal of romantic accessories to handle — she’s still hanging out with her confident ex Nathan (Daniel Puig), while likewise flirting with comics-shop worker Lourdes (Camila Moreno) and attempting to choose how she feels about long time pal Anthony (Will Meyers). Still, when her military dad Greg (Barry Watson) informs her specifically that she requires to select in between them due to the fact that choosing is really crucial, it seems like he’s discussing a lot more than who she may require to junior senior prom.

Superman is imaginary in Naomi’s world, so when the Big Blue Young boy Scout himself quickly appears in the area for a fuzzy battle series, the majority of the residents presume the occasion was an especially well-orchestrated viral promotion stunt of some kind. However Naomi, who’s quickly experiencing a great deal of strange, inexplicable phenomena, begins fanatically digging into what other individuals saw and experienced, what it implies about her own identity and adoption, and what the town’s 2 huge weirdos are concealing from her.

What’s it really about?

Naomi and her Scooby-Doo gang of mystery-solvers, holding flashlights at night and looking creeped-out

Photo: Danny Delgado/The CW

“Don’t believe everything you think,” one character tells Naomi in a particularly ominous moment. That wording sounds odd — “Question your beliefs” would be more direct and less confusing. But DuVernay has called out that phrase as a tagline and theme of the show, highlighting how individuals can live with longtime assumptions that aren’t necessarily true. “What you thought last year, do you still think this year?” she asks. “Because it’s all a growing process, and really to interrogate our beliefs, our thoughts, and to constantly be growing — that’s what’s happening to Naomi. […] I think that’s beautiful, and I think that’s what that age is all about. We all need to take the curiosity and exploration that we experience as young people, and take that into the rest of our lives.”

That’s a pretty heady (and given the state of the country, openly political) theme for a show about a universally beloved and highly successful teenager learning she also has superpowers. But open-mindedness and embracing chance are the kinds of values DuVernay regularly includes in her work. Apart from that messaging, though, Naomi’s pilot also sets up a journey of self-discovery and an empowerment fantasy, as Naomi figures out what makes her different, and decides whether she can emulate her hero Superman in a world where he doesn’t already exist to be her mentor, as he is in the comics.

Is Naomi good?

The pilot is a little rocky. It’s refreshing to see a high-schooler who’s a smart, driven academic success and is also universally liked, and who’s popular but not a queen bee or mean-girl type. Naomi is mighty wholesome, with its pansexual flirtations and warmly supportive, non-competitive central female friendship.

But that also makes Naomi feel a bit too perfect to be real. She has a great relationship with her parents, with her ex (who would like more of her attention, but isn’t pushy or entitled about it), even seemingly with the fandom tuning into her fan site. She has time to be an ace student, learn several languages, run a hugely successful website by herself, and also take the lead role on the school debate team. If a job interviewer asked her for her biggest flaws, she’s the kind of person who’d have to answer, “Oh, some people think I’m just just too driven and dedicated!” In spite of Naomi’s big questions about the Superman phenomenon and some eventual drama with the 2 oddballs in town, Naomi’s pilot is light on any kind of character friction or internal conflict, the kind of hooks that let people identify with a protagonist.

The Naomi pilot also doesn’t do much to establish her community as anything other than a support system and booster squad. She has a large group of friends who are eager to throw themselves without question into her Scooby-Doo investigative adventures, but almost none of them get any personal development. Every major thing we know about them points back to how they feel about Naomi, or what they do to help or encourage her.

In such a Naomi-centric world, a used-car dealer acting kinda hinky doesn’t seem like enough drama to ground the series. The pilot moves quickly, and it wraps on a point that will immediately give comics fans a lure into some other aspects of the DC Universe. However it doesn’t initially feel like it’s aiming at the same audience as other Arrowverse shows. Its bright, cheerful teen story seems to be skewed a lot younger, toward tweens who are still excited by the social promise of high school.

It’s worth seeing how the program develops — DuVernay said at a TCA panel in 2021 that it’s headed in a radically different direction than the comics. And with the Arrowverse struggling, shows like this may be consciously aimed at veering away from those shows’ now-traditional formula and audience. But like all the newer, younger superheroes being developed for the screen over the past few years, Naomi is entering a crowded field with a lot of competition, and the program will require to be a lot more unique than this opening pilot if it’s going to stand apart.

How can we view Naomi?

New episodes of Naomi air on The CW on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET. The pilot is streaming complimentary online on CWTV.com.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.