For years now, popular entertainment has been dominated by stories that originated in comics. And locally based companies and creators have been in the thick of it, with Greg Rucka’s “Stumptown” getting an all-too-short lived series adaptation on ABC, Dark Horse Comics titles such as “The Umbrella Academy” and “Resident Alien” getting renewed, and more.
The latest example of a comic book saga created by Portland-based talent making the leap to national screens is “Naomi,” a new series coming to The CW on Jan. 11. The show is based on the DC comics character created in 2019 by Portlanders and veteran comic writers, Brian Michael Bendis and David F. Walker, and illustrated by Jamal Campbell.
Adding to the show’s credentials are writer and executive producer Ava DuVernay (“When They See Us”) and executive producer Jill Blankenship (“Arrow”).
While The CW network is packed with superhero series based on DC characters, and shows built around youthful protagonists, “Naomi,” based on the first two episodes at least, has its own distinctive flavor.
The pilot introduces us to Naomi McDuffie (Kaci Walfall), a 16-year-old who lives with her parents in a Pacific Northwest town called Port Oswego, a name that will definitely sound familiar to locals. (The series takes place in Oregon, but was filmed in the Atlanta area.) Unlike Lake Oswego, however, the community of Port Oswego has a military base.
Naomi is a stand-out scholar and a popular teen-ager who runs a website devoted to Superman. She feels a kinship with the Man of Steel, she says, because, like him, Naomi was adopted. Her biological parents died, but she’s living a happy home life with her military officer father, Greg (Barry Watson), and her mother, Jennifer (Mouzam Makkar), a linguist.
Naomi’s world gets rocked, however, when a Superman-related strange event occurs in Port Oswego. Determined to get to the bottom of it, Naomi starts to feel different, and the deeper she digs, the more complicated things get.
Though we know from the start that Naomi is something special – “Every superhero has an origin story, and this is mine,” she says at the beginning of the episode – the pilot effectively establishes the reality she’s grown accustomed to, and how she’s about to see that changing.
Walfall is immediately appealing as Naomi, convincing as an intelligent young person who may not know all the secrets of her past, but who quickly comes to understand that the question she must ask isn’t “What happened?” but “Who am I?”
The show quickly and confidently brings in the community that surrounds Naomi, including her best friend, Annabelle (Mary-Charles Jones), her ex-boyfriend Nathan (Daniel Puig), a “townie” – as the military kids call him – classmate, Anthony (Will Meyers), and Lourdes (Camila Moreno), a comic book-store clerk.
Naomi also has encounters with more mysterious townfolk, including Dee (Alexander Wraith), a tattoo shop owner, and Zumbado (Cranston Johnson), a car lot owner who seems considerably more intriguing than your average auto dealer.
With only two episodes available to preview, it’s too early to know how “Naomi” will tell its story, but it’s stylish, entertaining, and fresher than the typical superhero show.