We live in a capitalist hellscape — yet few corporations have brought me more unadulterated joy than Boom! Box. This is primarily due to Giant Days (my save-the-best-for-the-bottom-of-the-pile book) and, of course, Lumberjanes. The series won Eisners for Best New Series and Best Publication for Teens in 2015 — if you haven’t dipped your toe in the water, I assure you it’s worth the hype. Creator Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooklyn A. Allen and Noelle Stevenson (who has given us Nimona and the new She-Ra) have built a universe were traditional children’s adventure stories cozy up to Greek mythology and powerful character arcs. The series has won GLAAD awards for its storylines featuring Mal and Molly’s romance, Jo’s transition, and Barney’s coming out as nonbinary. Mostly, though, the series focuses on the campers in Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types as they explore the surrounding woods. While the current arc is based on events from nearly forty issues ago, it’s not necessary to have read those to jump on in.
Previously on Lumberjanes
“Home is Where the Art Is” opens on the Janes exploring the woods with their counselor, Jen, who is often reluctantly dragged along on the campers’ adventures. Ripley, the youngest member of the cabin and easily the most energetic in the whole camp, has been kidnapped by Tromatikos, an evil being who has even bested the Greek Gods. Diane (yes — the Greek Goddess) has told our heroes that she cannot user her powers to help them: Zeus has placed a seal on the gods’ powers so Tromatikos cannot steal them whenever they’re near her. However, Diane gives the Janes instructions on how to find her.
Meanwhile, Tromatikos, knowing Ripley once had unlimited powers, seeks to feed off our favorite scamp. As Jen points out, “If there’s ANYONE who can outlast an energy-sucking nightmare lady — it’s Ripley!”
So what happens when you pair one of the most joyous characters in all of comic-dom with an eternal grump? Some of the funniest scenes in the entire series, as Ripley’s super-powered cats (long story) wreak havoc on Tromatikos’ hideout.
In their search for Ripley, the campers face her worst fear: old B-list horror movies. As they battle the campy monsters, Ripley explains to Tromatikos that she no longer has her powers. She reveals that the forest surrounding the camp is full of magic. We leave Ripley realizing she’s made a huge mistake as Tromatikos sets her site on camp!
Depth and Swagger
While Lumberjanes has a nice balance of character development and the literal mythology of the camp and its environs, we still have less of Ripley’s backstory than the other campers’. It’s nice to see a story centered around her. It’s especially interesting to see her greatest strengths — her irrepressible energy, impulsiveness, and inherently trusting nature — into liabilities. I appreciate that we also get a glimpse into her psyche.
As strong as the writing is, Lumberjanes has a true murderer’s row of artists in its stable. Dozerdraws’ scrappy style matches Ripley’s character perfectly — their squiggly lines and rough textures vividly match Ripley’s exuberance. Their action sequences with the kittens are zany and cinematic, breathing life and energy into some of my favorite sequences in the series. Meanwhile, Maarta Laiho’s colors are nothing less than magical as the matinee monsters sneak up on the campers. And of course, it’s a pleasure to see Shannon Waters and Kat Leyh dig into new layers of characters they’ve lived with for almost five years.
Overall Thoughts and Rating
I felt the last few arcs in Lumberjanes had gotten a bit formulaic. Entertaining, earnest, and comforting, to be sure, but this arc has a bit of a spark to it that the last few did not. Tromatikos is a foe who will be a true challenge to the Lumberjanes: it doesn’t seem like they can talk their way out of this one. I’m eager to see how they pool their resources together to send Tromatikos on her way.