LUMBERJANES #1/ Written by NOELLE STEVENSON & GRACE ELLIS/ Art by BROOKE ALLEN/ Colors by MAARTA LAIHO/ Letters by AUBREY AIESE/ Published by BOOM! STUDIOS
Lumberjanes is great. It’s a fairly highly anticipated series from BOOM!’s new creator owned line, with said creators being two of BOOM!’s Senior Editors, Shannon Watters and Grace Ellis, its writers being Noelle “Gingerhaze” Stevenson and Ellis, and illustrated by Brooke Allen. All are veterans of other all-ages comics (Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors, the like). The Adventure Time influence is particularly obvious, but in the best way possible. And it’s so good, you guys. It’s so good. Lumberjanes #1 is an absolutely terrific all-ages story, and if you pass it over you are missing out.
Lumberjanes #1 feels like an episode of Adventure Time in its energy, tone, and some choice pieces of dialogue (“What. The. JUNK?!” is such a Finn line). Like the show, this book is fun, it’s funny, and it’s just so incredibly charming. For those who don’t know or didn’t check out our pull list yesterday, Lumberjanes was pitched as a sort of cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gravity Falls and is about a group of girls at a summer camp “for hardcore lady-types.” The main cast is a pretty diverse – in appearance and personality – group of gals: over-energetic Ripley, big sister type Jo, book-smart punchmaster April, and the duo Mal and Molly. The Janes are supported by their rule-abiding counselor Jen and their eccentric, buff, and supernaturally aware camp director, Rosie. It’s a good, solid ensemble.
The cast is already well established – though Mal and Molly could use some more fleshing out next time – and even now it’s clear the way things are set up, there are an innumerable amount of stories you could tell about and with these seven ladies. Character writing is ultimately, to me, the most important thing in a work. A plot can be absurd and ridiculous but so long as I like and am invested in the characters, I’ll stick around for it (example, season three of Community) – well, up to a point (example, season four of Community). So far, the plot of Lumberjanes is not absurd or ridiculous, so even if you think what I just said was dumb and wrong, you’re in luck. But the character writing is really where it soars. Every character is likable and enjoyable, it’s practically impossible to keep a smile off of your face while reading.
What’s really great, and something that many writers can struggle with, is that a lot of the characters – who they are, what they want, how they operate – are established instantly with their introduction. Look at Buffy the Vampire Slayer as an example. In the pilot you know who and what Cordelia Chase is all about in her first scene with Buffy and Willow, while Buffy unfolds throughout the two-parter. In Lumberjanes you get a good chunk of character exposition down quick: April, Ripley, Jen, Rosie, and probably Jo. Again, Mal and Molly need some more time to get fleshed out, but hey, so did Angel, and that guy got his own show.
Brook Allen and Maarta Laiho’s illustrations and colors are outstanding. Everyone is so expressive, which adds to why it’s so damn funny. That probably sounds obvious because it’s an all-ages book. But seriously: there are several panels where the facial expressions alone are enough to choke laughing. April’s face when she punches the fox is a particular favorite, as are the two panels of Mal running panicked in the background during the fight. And when the girls are caught by Jen, you can just hear the collective and guilty “Hiiiiii Jeeennnn” from the faces alone. Laiho’s colors are particularly impressive, setting the spooky but fun mood in the woods and the bizarre, disorienting safety of Rosie’s cabin is heightened by just how brightly lit and colored it is compared to everything else. And Aiese’s lettering is also not to be passed over. She does terrific work here, capturing the girl’s voices and the sounds of the fight and the foxes. This is a well-made book.
There are so many reasons to get Lumberjanes. It’s a promising start, it has a great premise, it’s filled with instantly likable characters, and it’s got the feel of a couple of TV shows you probably already enjoy. If you’re a young reader or an old reader or somewhere in-between, Lumberjanes will not steer you wrong.