Review: Lumberjanes Volume 1 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis & Brooke A Allen

Lumberjanes Volume 1
Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis & Brooke A. Allen

BOOM! Studios
Published April 7, 2015
126 pages
Comics / All Ages / Fantasy / Adventure

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At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together... And they're not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here.
Collects Lumberjanes #1-4.

I really wanted to love Lumberjanes. I mean, it’s one of Noelle Stevenson’s (aka Gingerhaze) first original creations and I adore her. It’s an all-ages comic with a diverse group of female characters. It’s about adventures and empowerment and taking chances as long as you have friends to back you up. It has mystery and monsters and wackiness around every corner. On the surface it should have hooked me from the very beginning and not let me go.

And yet it didn’t. By the time I finished volume 1, I was starting to get interested, but unfortunately it ends after four issues of mystery after mystery with no hint of an answer or explanation. It took a while for it to start gelling well for me and when it started feeling coherent, it was over. And there weren’t any other volumes to read yet, so I just kind of left feeling disappointed.

Lumberjanes is extremely charming and fun and adorable. I could see that from the beginning. If I were 10, I would probably love this from page 1, but being much older than ten, I guess I was looking for a look more coherency from the beginning. Lumberjanes starts five awesome lady types who are at a sleep away camp where weirdness is hiding behind the surface of just about everything. The problem is these girls seem to be the only ones who keep finding it and therefore getting themselves into trouble. There are canoe trips with sea monsters, boy campers that turn into wolf creatures, odd monsters in the forest and much more in just four issues.

The girls themselves are really awesome. Ripley, who appears to be the youngest, was my favorite because she likes to randomly shout things and literally sprint into trouble. The other four tiptoed out of stereotype territory towards the end, but I couldn’t really remember which names went with which girl. There are two that seem to have an unrequited romance angle going on, which was really refreshing to see in a book for all ages. And this is truly an all ages book. The epithets are all made up phrases that reminded me of the whole “Holy –Insert Random Thing- Batman!” exclamations from the 1960s Batman television show.

The camp’s head mistress reminded me of a female Ron Swanson from the very first moment she appears, which cracked me up. Meanwhile the girls’ cabin counselor never really sees any of the crazy things the girls see and thinks they’re all a bunch of screw-ups. The dynamics that start to form because of these different female authority figures are barely formed by the end of this first volume, but there’s a lot of potential for how these two characters can fit into the larger, weirder world of the Lumberjanes.

So while I didn’t love this book from page one, I really saw the potential of the story and how I might come to love it with volume 2. The art is fun and verging on goofy in a very comic strip style way. It’s stylistic without making everything impossible to understand, which is nice. It’s like a gimmicky cartoon on the Cartoon Network that hipsters would love just in panel format. I love that it’s a story about adventures for young girls and I can’t wait to share it with my niece when she gets to the right age. It encourages exploration and precociousness that I haven’t seen in any comics or books aimed at the demographic, so it’s a win just for that.

Lumberjanes volume 1 is an introduction that doesn’t feel like much more than that. It left me wanting more just so it could make sense, but it did give me enough of a feel for the characters and the world to know that this is a place filled with people that I look forward to spending more time with. Just don’t expect to get a full story with explanations and answers in this book alone.