Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh (Writers), Dozerdraws (Artist), Maarta Laiho (Colourist), Aubrey Aiese (Letterer)
I used to be a regular Lumberjanes reader, but over the last few years, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve fallen behind on all my ongoing series, Lumberjanes included. I’m slowly getting caught up through the trades, but this particular story does seem to work as a stand-alone so I figured it was safe to jump ahead a bit for this landmark issue.
Within the main story of this oversized issue, there are two separate, yet connected, threads. In the first, Jo and Molly have joined Emily and Diane in the Zodiac cabin for a night of board games. When the reader catches up to them, they’re already well into a game that looks similar in style to the tile-based Carcassonne with some unique twists (like dinosaurs). The rules are never directly explained, but the various players are working to build up their own territories of log houses, waterways, and forests with varying degrees of success. As someone who enjoys board games, I love how perfectly the comic captures the ups and downs of a good game. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you need to strategize, and sometimes someone comes out of nowhere and takes it all.
Below the cabins and the mess hall, April, Mal, and Ripley are on their own adventure. There are tunnels underneath the camp where they make several interesting discoveries, some cool like the glowing fungus on the wall and some, like giant bugs, are a little more terrifying.
Both these stories are fairly straightforward, but in a limited amount of pages, they’re able to really showcase the diverse group of personalities that make up the Lumberjanes. This is, and has always been, an ensemble comic, and these distinct personalities, all working together, are part of what makes it so great. Each character has a chance to shine, but it’s when they’re together that we really see them come to life on the page. In the tunnels, we see April’s confidence initially take charge. But as things get a little dicier, Mal is able to rise to the occasion and pull the group together. I love April’s conviction, but I also love that she had the opportunity to be vulnerable and lean on her friends.
Because I’m a little out of touch with the series, there were a few faces I didn’t recognize (or maybe didn’t remember), but overall that didn’t affect my understanding and immersion in the story. I probably would have enjoyed it a bit more if I had some additional context regarding their personal relationships, especially for the board game scenes. There seemed to be some tension and rivalry between some of the characters, and it wasn’t clear if that was from an earlier issue or born of the game itself.
The artwork in this series is, as always, bright and expressive. Dozerdraws has only joined the series recently, but their style is a great match for the tone and the characters. There’s a great energy on every page, and each character still has a unique look that suits their personality. I find their facial expressions, in particular, are well drawn. Even when there’s no dialogue the reader can always tell what the girls are thinking.
That being said, I am a big fan of the original artist on the series—Brooklyn Allen—so I was happy to find there was a bonus short story at the end of the issue written by Shannon Watters and illustrated by Allen. The story itself felt a little out of context, but I really enjoyed seeing Allen’s artwork again.
Overall, it was encouraging to jump back into this series after some time away and find it still has the spirit that made me pick it up in the first place. It’s definitely influenced me to make more of an effort to get caught up and find out what they’ve been up to before this point. It was also a treat to read something so delightful and light. There’s no real darkness (giant bugs notwithstanding) or violence. Just a bunch of hardcore lady-types living their best life out in the woods.