Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters (script), Brooke Allen (penciling), Maarta Laiho (colors), Aubrey Aiese (letters)
April 15, 2015
For the handful of people that might have missed out on the Lumberjanes craze, issue thirteen offers the start of a new arc and the perfect jumping-on point. While the comic’s first dozen installments jumped right into the action, issue thirteen is taking several steps back and introducing the cast to each other—and, subsequently, to readers both new and returning.
Each character is shown arriving at summer camp on its inaugural day, some with family in tow. Despite being packed with mostly back-to-back introductions, there’s enough plot brewing to keep in step with the book’s usual pace, with the issue’s second half being devoted to just that.
We see for the first time the kind of home life that several of the girls come from, from Jo’s lovingly overbearing and helicopter-wielding genius dads, to the absence of Mal’s family as she bores a taxi driver by talking about an unnamed, disinterested female guardian. Several new friendships are formed almost immediately, the cast’s chemistry with each other demanding nothing less than Friendship to the Max from the start. (I’ll admit my little queer heart grew five sizes over Mal and Molly’s first meeting, too.)
The second half of the issue follows the girls as they go careening into the woods after a kidnapped toy. Here Stevenson and Watters return to the Lumberjanes sweet spot: wild adventure on the fly. Despite the relatively tame nature of said adventure, there’s plenty of of teamwork and butt-kicking, even if the latter is largely due to a crafty raccoon. It’s a fun read, with little sense of risk, but plenty of grin-inducing moments. And the lighthearted tone of the issue’s second half was the perfect foundation on which to end with cartoonishly foreboding imagery.
And Allen’s art is as fitting as ever for the book, with its sketchy style and joyously exaggerated imagery pairing flawlessly with the Tumblr-styled dialect utilized in the dialogue. While the hologram screens featured in Jo’s car didn’t seem to translate well in Allen’s style, she tackled the endless background woods, a fleet of different types of cars, and a host of new side characters with her usual cartoony flair.
Particularly endearing was the design of all of Ripley’s siblings, their personalities literally on their sleeves, as each one wore clothing or toted accessories unique to their interests. Included among the brood was a happy baby with a hat labeled genius and a completed Rubik’s Cube. (And, apparently, a poopy diaper.)
I’m not a fan of the intentionally inconsistent inking style employed in the book, with some outlines done whisper-thin while others are heavily bolded, but it seems to work out nicely collectively, even if it doesn’t please my eyes when going from panel to panel.
The life of this issue is really brought out by Laiho’s colors. From the rich, dynamic colors used to breathe summer into every woodsy background panel, to the vivid gradients used to emphasize background-less action panels, the colors in this issue were just phenomenal. These colors take what Allen’s lines are saying and turn up the volume, giving the book energy and texture that’s palpable. Laiho knows exactly when to give images tone and shading and when to keep them flat, and it shows on every page. The color composition of the cabins and the waterfall in this issue are especially lovely.
Lumberjanes is just a great comic and genuine evidence that it takes a team with cohesive energy to produce something so consistently good from issue to issue. I enjoyed seeing the book done in other art styles (all of which brought unique charm to Lumberjanes’ pages), but it’s nice to see the band back together with Allen’s return in this issue.
Further, the decision to pedal back and take a look at how the cast first met—with the exception of Jo and April who were already BFFs, their not-so-secret handshake played out blow-by-blow in this issue—really highlights why I love this book so much: the relationships are awesome. Each girl is more than the sum of her archetype, and the way they interact and work together constantly highlights that “girl power” comes in many forms and is best when pooled together. And beneath the cartoony frame, the book sets itself in, there’s the echoes of great friendships I’ve had throughout my life with other women, bringing me back to warm childhood summers spent getting up to the best kinds of no good. Minus the mythological threats, of course.
Whether you’ve been in Odin-levels of slumber or you’ve taken up rock-dwelling and you haven’t been reading the book, issue thirteen is beckoning to you to the series with promises of friendship, mystery, and corny merit badges. And if you’re a returning reader, you know exactly what I mean when I say that this summer camp is starting to feel like my home away from home.