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Comics Review: Lumberjanes

Review

From Nimona creator Noelle Stevenson, first-time comic author Grace Ellis, and artist Brooke Allen comes Lumberjanes! Produced by Boom! Studios, this first book is a delightful camp adventure in the weird-but-true style of Psychonauts and other such strange adventures.

Featuring (so far) an entirely female cast of characters, each delightfully quirky with more-than-meets-the-eye attitudes (and believe me, there’s already a lot to meet the eye thanks to interesting and unique character designs), the first book introduces us to our cadre of lumberjane troopers deep in the woods in the dark of night, mid-adventure. Things escalate quickly, and it soon become obvious this is no slice-of-life camp adventure, but that indeed some weeeeiiiiird stuff is going on, the kind of stuff that will have you going:

We leap into action mid-scene with our plucky protagonists, Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley, who are up way past their bedtime and way far away from their beds, following clues and trailing mysteries and breaking rules to do so. Can you really blame them, though? I mean, they’re starting out fighting three-eyed dream-like foxes who vanish into smoke when…uh…sufficiently punched, I suppose. We don’t know much about what’s going on to start, but the book certainly doesn’t disappoint with it’s hilarious and engaging action.

Of course, nothing in life is without consequence, which is how we are introduced to our esteemed counselor, Jen, and camp director, Rosie. (Let me add that not only do I find the fact that every character so far is female to be delightful, but that they also all have names and not one is set dressing to be especially pleasing.) The exposition in the comic is done so well that it isn’t until reading it again that I start to recognize the narrative structure underneath what I enjoyed as a dorky but enthusiastic adventuring group. As the lumberjanes explain to Rosie exactly what possessed them to wander into the woods, and as Rosie responds with sincere interest and not dismissive anger at disobedient children, hints of the larger story begin to take shape. From witchy old bear women to high fights and action it’s stunningly clear that Lumberjanes is going to be worth picking up every issue as soon as it comes out.

While the story has me delighted in a way that I can only compare to Adventure Time in its whimsy-yet-surprising-depth, the art does an amazing job of selling you the story. Many first issues of a comic can get long-winded into exposition and talking heads as the characters attempt to explain what’s going on, but because of the great art and layout in this comic, Lumberjanes doesn’t hesitate to dump you into the action, and then tumble you into the suspense of getting caught, and then slip right into the cheerful-yet-serious development of who these people are and where they’re going. Frankly, largely because of the art, the book reminds me of great cartoons I’ve watched, enrapt, not only by the antics of the characters but the way their attitudes, ideas, and  character are so aptly expressed in the style.

It’s obvious that Lumberjanes is going to be especially great for kids, but I mean that in a way that there are things that are For Kids in a way no sane adult would ever touch, and then there are things that are “For Kids” that do a fantastic job of being all-ages and positively delightful, and Lumberjanes falls solidly into that second camp (ha ha, get it? Camp joke). Combining the heady feel of camp nostalgia with solid story-telling and wonderful art, Lumberjanes is a comic you’ll not regret picking up.

Lumberjanes is written by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis, drawn by Brooke Allen, and is available from Boom! Studios.

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