Lumberjanes I & II by Noelle Stevenson & Grace Ellis, co-created by Sharon Watters and illusrated by Brooke Allen
There was a lot of talk in 2015 about the Lumberjanes – espcially since the comics have been collected into softbacks for our delectation. Two volumes are currently available comprising 4 issues of the magazine each and a third is due soon, although the series was originally conceived for just 8 comics…
Who are the Lumberjanes? They are a group of five sort of girl-scout attending a summer school at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqui Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hard Core Lady Types. As you can see, the five girls (L-R are Ripley, April, Jo, Molly and Mal) are very different in looks and style with personalities to match.
The story starts with our girls, having escaped the watchful eyes of supervisor Jen, having fun in the forest. It soon turns scary though as they’re surrounded by baying foxes with three eyes who howl ‘Beware the kitten holy’ before turning tail, leaving the girls to head back to tell Rosie, the big red-head with 50s style glasses and beefy tattooed arms who runs the camp, about the strange goings on. Jen is naturally very cross at their escapades.
This formula remains essentially the same throughout. In each chapter has its own adventure in which:
- the girls evade Jen,
- get into a scrape,
- get out of a scrape
- and report back to Rosie.
Underground caves, zombie boy-scouts, moving statues, yetis, dinosaurs and more are out there to trouble them. A bit like in Doctor Who, there is a big mix of monsters and foes for them to confront and outwit – never the same type twice. Although each short adventure just about stands on its own, there is obviously an underlying longer story going on too which Rosie is part of.
Each of the girls offers different qualities into the mix. Ripley is a crazy monkey, April is feisty and rather gobby, Jo is the brains of the group, Mal may look punky, but is sensitive and supportive and Molly is the quiet one and has a crush on Mal. I immediately took to Mal, and Molly (especially once I found out the secret of Molly’s hat in the second volume). They’re an inclusive bunch too, I later found out that Jo is apparently transgender.
The presentation of the books is great. Near A4 sized, full and bright glossy colours on every page. Each comic/chapter is presented as one of the Lumberjanes rather idiosyncratic badges, so the girls’ adventures match up to the badge’s criteria.
My only problem with the Lumberjanes was the same as Alex at The Sleepless Reader had. The stories are just rather slight. They may be packed with technicolor girl-power and general zaniness but they lack depth and the plots aren’t exactly new, borrowing from all over the place – but adding a female twist. I suspect that as a middle-aged adult I’m expecting too much; if I were a teen with a short attention span, I’d probably adore everything about them.
Although it was nice to see the covers of the original comics in the ‘Cover gallery’ at the end of the first volume, twenty pages of variant cover artwork by various other artists was totally unnecessary for me. That’s a fifth of the book! Volume two had more cover art plus a fifteen page preview of another comic from the same stable – Yawn.
I loved the concept of an all girl comic written for girls by girls. Lumberjanes will be a big success and has already won prizes. It would be super to see the group given a proper adventure to get their teeth into though – I’d happily read that. Meanwhile, I wonder if my daughter would like these? (7.5/10)
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Source: Own copies
Lumberjanes vol 1 – Stevenson et al (Boom entertainment, Apr 2015) Softback, 128 pages
Lumberjanes vol 2 – Stevenson et al (Boom entertainment, Oct 2015) Softback, 128 pages