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Lumberjanes – Book Review

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Lumberjanes Issue #25

Five girls sharing a cabin at summer camp meet supernatural adventure in high gear!
Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for [Girls] Hardcore Lady Types is host to this gang of young women who each have a strong personality and can take an active lead in dangerous situations. Which is really good because the woods surrounding the camp is filled with odd supernatural creatures, from yeti and mermaids to velociraptors and ancient deities! I love how they all say Robin-like expletives invoking women role-models like, “Holy Anne Bancroft!”

Lumberjanes is filled with gripping action and mystery and is inhabited by interesting and lovable characters that you will find yourself rooting for. I’ve heard some readers complain that they feel they are being hit over the head with the politics of gender. I did not find this to be the case at all. The comics are stories told from women’s points of view, something that some readers may find a novel experience. There is a lot of feminism inherent in Lumberjanes. I love the book’s original voice. The romance is low key and matter-of-fact, finding a welcome and relevant place in the storyline. It’s a chance to see things through new eyes, or perhaps, to finally find a place that feels like home.

The illustrations are richly colorful, done by many different contributing artists, (often oddly changing mid-book, which I found slightly disorienting). The pages are not too busy, and can easily be read under the cover of a sleeping bag with a flashlight… which I wholeheartedly recommend. While camping, if possible!


Lumberjanes - Beware The Kitten Holy

Beware The Kitten Holy (#1)

Chapters 1-4
Written by: Noelle Stevenson & Grace Ellis
Illustration: Brooke Allen

After following a bear-woman, the five campers from Roanoke Cabin are set upon by wolf-sized foxes (kitsune?) who sing the words “Beware the Kitten Holy” and disappear, leaving behind a small talisman (found by Jo). Can they get back before Jen, their cabin head wakes up? Nope. Setting out to get their naval gauging badges, the entire cabin and their counselor are upended by a river monster and fall into a cave, where they must pass the challenges of the guardians to continue. April arm-wrestles a statue, Ripley cannonballs into a bird-headed creature, and they must solve a mathematical puzzle to cross a chasm spotted with stepping-stone rock columns like a video game. Then they solve an anagram that leads them to a tower near the lake.

The tower is, of course, guarded by yeti. But before they can tackle that challenge, the girls from Miss Quinzella’s Camp run into a group of boys from a local scout camp across the lake. Their camp director is a hot-headed, muscle-bound yeller who thinks cookies are for the weak. Actually, they are for the yeti. At the top of the lighthouse, the campers find a golden bow & arrow, which of course they “borrow” (they leave a note), but it seems while they are gone, the boys camp goes a little nutso… like, rabid… and attacks.

Now, I’m not gonna lie to you girls, you’re gonna see some stuff this summer. Stuff you might not understand. It’ll be hard. But you’re scouts, and you’re made of tougher stuff. So remember that pledge you took, and stick together no matter what. You hear me?


Friendship to the Max

Friendship to the Max (#2)

Chapters 5-8
Written by: Noelle Stevenson & Grace Ellis
Illustration: Brooke Allen

When Rosie leaves Jen in charge of the hardcore lady-types, camp is invaded by red velociraptors, (many carrying the same type of “eye” that Jo found on the foxes,) which are defeated by bravery, ingenuity, and a visit from the Bear Woman. We sense some tension between Bear Woman and Rosie on her return.

I wish everyone had a kitten.

Capture the Flag becomes a thing, and the teams are neck-in-neck in a fight to the finish. Ripley watches a camper named Diane walk through a tree and portal out another one. Bear Woman seemed to believe Jo was an Ancient Mythical Being in disguise, mainly because the dinosaurs and other stuff seemed to be coming right for her. Turns out it was the magic golden eye, and April is kinda put out that Jo never shared the secret. Diane is also fooled, loses her cool, and reveals that the cool bow and arrow set that Codename: Yellowtail (Molly) has been rocking since they found it in the tower… is hers. And if Roanoke cabin promises to help, she’ll reveal all. So they go back to the tower of anagrams. After stealing a crystal from Rosie’s office.

When Jo puts her eye in the crystal, a mystical deer shows them the way. The golden eyes were the god Apollo spying on his sister, Artemis (Diana, if you didn’t catch it). Apparently there was this big, long, boring lecture by their dad Zeus about responsibility, and whoever of the siblings was first to win a challenge would get all of his power when he retired. They put the crystal in the plinth where they found Artemis’ bow, but the girls have been manipulated on all sides. Jo turns to stone.

After defeating the giant insect swarm, they must face a swarm of boy scouts. Remember the super-masculine nut who led the boy’s camp? Yep. Apollo. And the scouts turn into raging monsters. Until… The Power of Friendship! I can’t give away the ending, but the person you would least expect ends up with the power of a god, if only temporarily. When Rosie shows up at the end, she says one thing to the mythical entities: “I called your father.”

“Now Joan,”
“Jen.”
“Those girls don’t NEED you to punch a bear. They can do that on their own. What they really need is someone smart and practical, someone who can keep them from getting in over their heads.”
“Yeah, but that’s boring.”
“Hmm, that’s true. Maybe you could learn karate.”



THE CAST:

April A redhead with a can-do attitude and extra arm strength. She tries her hardest to help everyone she can, and she’s great with arts & crafts.

Jo Tall and slender, she wears cut-off gloves and a jacket with elbow-patches over a red hoodie. She is an inventor, and loves science experiments.

Ripley Short and spunky, she has a permanent bad hair day going on. She is the youngest camper in Roanoke, and the wildest!

Mal She wears her dark hair in a skater-cut and a vest over her flannel. She has lots of earrings and plays bass in a band.

Molly A blonde with a single long braid, and an expert marks-woman with a bow. She is usually wearing a raccoon cap. No, not like Davy Crockett, this hat (named Bubbles) will yawn, stretch, and help the girls win a game of capture the flag from time to time.

Jen Roanoke cabin’s scout-advisor, a camp counselor… a little older than the rest, and a little more concerned about safety. Not that she doesn’t jump head-first into adventure!

Rosie The Camp Leader, She is easy-going and gives the campers the leeway they need to learn for themselves. She has lots of tattoos! (An obvious nod to Rosie the Riveter).


Lumberjanes - A Terrible Plan

A Terrible Plan (#3)

Chapters 9-12

The main story is prefaced with a Midnight Society style campfire where each girl must tell a scary story. (This must have been the Halloween special issue, and an entertaining one at that.)

During a free day at camp, Molly and Mal go off on their own to bond in the woods (on a date… no, sorry, a “picnic”). The girls finally meet the Bear Woman (she used to run the camp before Rosie) and yet don’t manage to learn much more about her, she remains an enigma. A chase through a portal (yeah, the door to the A-frame, not a pylon but leading to the land of the lost nonetheless,) strands them in another world. They accept a quest to retrieve Bear Woman’s spectacles from a kleptomaniac velociraptor who likes shiny things. Not that they have a choice, the glasses are magic and are the only way to see the way out.

Meanwhile, the rest of the cabin tries to earn mundane “normal” merit badges like Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fondant Cake Decorating, Playing With Fire, Flower Power, and Go Ball-istic Ballroom Dancing. They fail miserably. But they do learn the value of quality over quantity and of celebrating friendship.

”What does one even do here when they’re not chasing chupacabras, anyway?”
“Apparently earn the most boring badges known to Lumberjanes-dom.”
“We are way behind on the badges we need for our bronze axes.”
“How is that possible. We literally defeated an out of control deity.”


Out of Time

Out of Time (#4)

Chapters 13-16
Written by: Shannon Watters & Noelle Stevenson
Illustration: Brooke Allen

Working on the survival skills Rosie has neglected to teach them, the girls and their counselor are set upon by antlered wolves in a summer snow squall. Jen falls down a snow bank and is lost. Though the girls return to camp and Rosie sets out to retrieve her, the Lumberjanes aren’t going to abandon a friend. Luckily for Jen, she meets a woman named Abigail that invites her to a warm cabin. She’s a hunter,a good one, with a huge stuffed trophy room… and she used to be a Lumberjane. She was friends with Rosie.

The Lumberjanes visit the Scouting Lads, and pick up an over-achiever named Barney who seems to rub Jo the wrong way. As they sleep on their search for Jen, the wolves return. “For the love of Nellie Bly, Run!” But when one is put in a headlock by April, it warns them to beware!

Meanwhile Rosie catches up to Jen at Abigail’s cabin. They argue. Then, while they are trapped in a cellar, some of the camp history is finally revealed. The Bear Woman’s name was Nellie, and she ran the camp while Rosie and Abigail were there. The two girls had a close friendship. One day while hiking too close to Mount Glory, the (past) Lumberjanes had encountered a Grootslang, a powerful, almost god-like being of the mountains. They almost die.

Stupid, stupid, stupid! The Grootslang doesn’t want to kill us! It doesn’t care about us at all. We’re nuthin’ but fleas on its back! And here you go causing it an itch! You think it’s not gonna scratch it? You’ll get us all killed.

Today: An army of antlered wolves, The Lumberjanes, a Bear Woman, and Rosie must save the forest from Abigail trying to bag her biggest game yet with a mountain full of dynamite. Can Rosie rescue her old friend from herself? Will they die confronting the elephant-headed demon? The girls try to buy it off with treasure… but it’s too late. they’ve been noticed.

Oh yes. Jackalopes are very bloodthirsty. Took a hunk right out of my shin, the little scamp.

As an epilogue, Jo has a heart-to-heart with Barney, who seems to have found his place with the Lumberjanes more so than with the Scouting Lads and their mentor, Apollo. She alludes that she may be trans (or gender fluid).

The Lumberjanes Scouts were the first place I ever felt like I could be who I actually was. I know exactly where I belong. And it was never across the lake with the Scouting Lads.


Lumberjanes - Band Together

Band Together (#5)


Chapters 17-20 (Comics #13, 18-20)
Written by: Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh
Illustration: Carolyn Nowak

Flashback to the beginning of camp. Ripley arrives first, with gum in her hair from a car trip filled with wild siblings, and is helped to a makeover by April. Mal and Molly meet on the way in, and seem to hit it off right away. Jo and April are already friends. A raccoon makes off with Mr. Sparkles, Ripley’s stuffed unicorn, leading the whole cabin on a team-building scramble through the woods. He just wants a friend. So Molly takes him with her, riding on her head. (This is from stand-alone issue #13, and is written and drawn by the original Stevenson, Watters, & Allen.)

While Jo is fishing, she snags a big one! It’s a mermaid (well, her jacket… band patches and all,) and the drama that follows her. Her name is Harlow and she was kicked out of her band. This guy named Carter made the band bigger, brought in management. April, of course, believes she can fix everything with a Lucille Ball-style scheme to swap music during sound checks at the band’s next gig. But instead of playing the original demo tape of Harlow and the band’s other founder, Taylor, April amplifies a sea serpent battle cry! Chaos ensues! The real problem is that while all this is happening, the other girls are about to miss the camp’s Bandicoot Bacchanal, where Ripley was supposed to be in the dance contest with Bubbles. Now, her dress isn’t even close to finished. Can April save the day for the merwomyn and get the band back together? Or will she break it apart forever?

Are you implying that I’m not uniquely suited for any given merhuman adventure du jour? May I remind you that I have read EVERY volume of The Mermaid Lemonade Stand?


Sink or Swim

Sink or Swim (#6)

Chapters 21-24
Written by: Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh
Illustration: Carey Pietsch

Sea-farin’ Karen is a new camp counselor specializing in knot tying… but she’s also a lycanthrope whose sailing ship has been captured by selkies! Accepting the challenge, the girls from Roanoke split up to save the vessel. Mol’ and Mal get sucked back into the other world filled with dinosaurs and ruined temples while seeking advice from another shape-shifter, the Bear Woman.

”Why would anyone want to live outside of camp? It’s the best!”
“Also, toilets.”
“Not to mention all the y’know dinosaurs and rogue god-beings wandering about these woods all willy-nilly!”

The other Lumberjanes try to figure out how to fulfill the requirements of their ”Knot on Your Life” badges by recapturing Karen’s ship from the gang of selkies given that the water is guarded by a series of unpredictable magic whirlpools. They trade insults, but the girls realize that the selkies took the ship only in retaliation for Karen (they believe) taking Moirin’s missing pelt hostage.

There is a battle for the ship until one of the whirlpools grows giant and sucks Karen’s ship into it, Lumberjanes, selkies, crew and all.

The two groups recognize it was all a misunderstanding and pull together as a crew to save one another from drowning, face a series of rogue portals, retrieve the pelt, and work through their disagreements, each admitting their own part in the chaos. Molly and Mal finally share a visible kiss, but it is a decided non-event in light of their newly acquired pirate ship dropping from a portal in the lightning-filled sky; the Lumberjane cavalry to the rescue.

The alternate covers art in the gallery at the end are the best yet, and really capture the girls’ personalities. The writing keeps getting better the deeper the characters are developed and the deeper the mystery of the forest grows. This feels like a shorter, less complicated adventure, but it is one of the best.

You earn this badge as a group.As it is on the sea, you live n’ die by the skill o’ the sailor next to ya. That knot you’re tyin’ may be all that’s between your crew and the salty embrace of THE DEEP. So you sure-as-salt better be able to tie it! That means leavin’ none behind… and your small, lively one is tangled in her own rope.

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