There are times when I really think the comics industry is making leaps and bounds in terms of girls and women. Reading Lumberjanes brought on one of those moments. Written and drawn by women, depicting girls and women of many types, subversively upending traditional stereotypes but not simply making the characters masculine (ala Katniss in The Hunger Games), Lumberjanes is the kind of book every late elementary, middle schooler, high schooler, or, really, adult woman should read. It’s enormously fun on top of being empowering and subversive.
BOOM! Box describes the novel thusly:
Five best friends spending the summer at Lumberjane scout camp…defeating yetis, three-eyed wolves, and giant falcons…what’s not to love?!
Friendship to the max! Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are five best pals determined to have an awesome summer together…and they’re not gonna let any insane quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! Not only is it the second title launching in our new BOOM! Box imprint but LUMBERJANES is one of those punk rock, love-everything-about-it stories that appeals to fans of basically all excellent things. It’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Gravity Falls and features five butt-kicking, rad teenage girls wailing on monsters and solving a mystery with the whole world at stake. And with the talent of acclaimed cartoonist Noelle Stevenson, talented newcomer Grace Ellis writing, and Brooke Allen on art, this is going to be a spectacular series that you won’t want to miss. Collects Lumberjanes #1-#4.
Lumberjanes comes at you as a Field Manual for Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for
Girls Hardcore Lady-Types with a motto of “Friendship to the max!” I think I have never liked a name for anything better than this. It captures the graphic novel perfectly: oddball, subversive, feminist, and a touch absurd. Each issue of the comic is one chapter of the Field Manual with a badge description that frames the mini-adventure of the issue. This structure brings the reader into the narrative, making it feel a bit like a found object from the real world.
Lumberjanes kicks off with an upending of “Little Red Riding Hood” with red-headed April, also wearing a red cloak, out in the woods in the middle of the night. She looks scared on the first page, setting up expectations of the fairy tale. However, as the story continues and she is joined by the other girls from her cabin, those expectations get dashed. In response to an attack by a pack of three-eyed foxes, the girls counter-attack in “Little Red Formation” and April gives the battle-cry, “To Grandmother’s house we go!” That’s just the first three pages and I’m already so into this comic. I believe I audibly chuckled.
There’s a crazy mystery/conspiracy going on at the Lumberjanes camp. Initially it seems it might be in the girls’ heads, but the strange response of the camp’s director solidifies the reality of the odd things the girls encounter. How does the boys’ camp, with their extreme tidiness, yummy cookies, and Ron Swanson-esque leader, fit into the picture?
The artwork by Brooke Allen has an upscale Cartoon Network look to it–like a cross between Adventure Time (also done by Noelle Stephenson) and Stephen Universe. And, frankly, if you like either of those cartoons, I’d put dollars to donuts you’ll like Lumberjanes. It’s the same style of upbeat, lovable oddity.
Frankly, I wish this had existed when I was a kid. Its depiction of girl friendships, fear and courage, positivity, independence, and problem-solving would have been welcome. Instead, I’ll foist it on all the lady-type t(w)eens in my life.
RECOMMENDED MUSICAL PAIRING: Girlyman’s “Through to Sunrise”