Holy, Noelle Stevenson! A review of Lumberjanes vol. 1 by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis

You know, it’s a good thing I’m not a booktuber otherwise my review of Lumberjanes vol. 1 would mainly consist of something like this: [HIGH PITCHED SQUEALING NOISE AS AN ALL CONSUMING GRIN ENVELOPS HER ENTIRE FACE]

Lumberjanes is the first volume of the comic series by Noelle Stevenson, formerly best known for her tumblr fan comics, and Grace Ellis, revolving all around a group of five girls and their Scooby-Doo esque adventures in a pseudo Girl Scout pro-ladies summer camp. Imagine the antics of The Magic School Bus with more ladies and less education. Oh, and Ms. Frizzle is this buff tattooed lumberjane who is super into hearing all about the three eyed wolves you just had to fight.

It’s delightfully weird.

I’ve already made two references to 90s serialized cartoon shows but that’s really what Lumberjanes best resembles. There isn’t an overarching plot in the first volume as much as there are separate issues bound together, each telling a different fun adventure with the girls. Yes, there’s some set up in the first issue where the five girls encounter a pack of three eyed wolves who, in the midst of fighting, suddenly all stop to proclaim BEWARE THE KITTEN HOLY but that payoff for that isn’t particularly momentous. Some promises are made late in the book of more conflicts with this world’s version of the Boy Scouts (called the Scouting Lads whose Scout leader is such a parody of obsessive masculinity that I had a huge grin on my face for the 2 or so pages that he showed up. I’M GOING TO CATCH A FISH BY WRESTLING IT AWAY FROM A BEAR ::door slam::) but what this volume sets out to do is get the reader used to the world we’re adventuring in and loving our cast of characters.

The characters and humor are really where this book shines for me. With such a shallow plot, we need to be following characters who we want to be around regardless of the situation. Luckily, the girls in Lumberjanes are great. There’s April, the shortest and most outwardly feminine of the group who loves puns and is also physically strong, Jo the semi-androgynous pseudo leader who loves math and tends to be the only one concerned about the danger the group gets into, Molly, the some quiet one who is great at archery and also potentially has a crush on Mal but might not who knows sexuality is weird amirite?, Mal the outwardly punk looking girl who is terrified of the show River Monsters and what dangers lie beneath the water (spoilers, lots of danger), and Ripely, the youngest and most chaotic of the group who will cannonball headfirst into danger because why not? They all play off of each other wonderfully and it’s great seeing such a diverse representation of ladies being friends and not going after each other for petty reasons.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the artwork in some way. Surprising me, given the cover, Noelle Stevenson did not illustrate the comic herself, although she did provide character designs for our leading ladies and supporting cast. Instead, Brooke Allen did the illustration work with Maarta Laiho coloring and Aubrey Aiese lettering. They all did a fantastic job. Allen has a much stronger line weight than Stevenson which works really well as contrast to how saturated the color work is. Everyone is expressive in both their facial features and also body movement. I love it.

If you’re a person who enjoys reading comics about ladies being awesome in a fun and weird setting, then I highly recommend checking out Lumberjanes. I initially got this out of the library but as soon as my budget allows it, I will be buying this volume. The second volume cannot come out fast enough.

cover design by Noelle Stevenson