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Review: ‘Lumberjanes,’ vol. 1

At Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hard-core Lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed Foxes. Secret Caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five, rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together…and they’re not gonna let a magical quest or array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here.

Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy Volume 1
Written by: Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis; illustrated by Brooke Allen; colors by Maarta Laiho; letters by Aubrey Aiese
All Ages
Boom! Studios, April 2015
ISBN: 978-1-60886-687-8
128 pgs, $14.99 USD

Lumberjanes made a big splash last year as the series, with all female leads, debuted as BOOM! Studios’ second book for their creator-owned BOOM! Box imprint. Described as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Gravity Falls at summer camp,” it became a big hit with fans of all ages and gained two Eisner Award nominations for Best New Series and Best Publication for Teens (13-17).

Lumberjanes jumps right into the action with the five friends searching the woods for an old woman they saw turn into a bear. The weirdness just grows from there, as they are attacked by three-eyed wolves, a river monster, and hipster Yetis. Through their friendship and the skills they learned while earning badges, they solve a series of riddles to discover the meaning of the message “Beware the Kitten Holy.”

This first volume collects the first four issues of the comic series, and it was a lot of fun. The five friends, April, Jo, Mal, Molly, and Ripley, are all very different, with distinct personalities and skills. April is the leader, smart and take-charge with a mean right for arm wrestling. Jo is April’s friend and has the mad math skills. Mal looks tough but hates the river thanks to Discovery Channel, while Molly is the strong-but-silent type who also knows her way around anagrams and a bow and arrow. Ripley loves animals and is about as hyper as a squirrel. The girls get along really well, preferring to work together than compete, and they always have each other’s backs. It’s so refreshing to see characters that genuinely like each other and want to cooperate.

This first volume works to introduce the characters through a mystery in the woods surrounding their camp. I loved all the three-eyed creatures. It’s not just the foxes: The river monster, a chocolate-stealing eagle, even the chipmunks have the mysterious third-eye. The Indiana-Jones-ish journey through the underground caves was a lot of fun too. Jen, the girls’ camp counselor, is the perfect straight woman for all their antics. She doesn’t believe their stories at first, but by the end, the strangeness is overwhelming. The head of the camp, Rosie, seems to have an idea about what’s going on, as she is ready to call their parents on the first fight before she hears about the bearwoman. She’s a big woman with tattoos on her arms and bears a remarkable resemblance to Rosie the Riveter.

As a trade, this volume includes several extras not included in the original comics: Each chapter opens with a chapter from the Lumberjanes’ Hand Book describing the badge the chapter is based on. There is also a cover gallery featuring all the variant covers and early design sketches of the girls, Jen, and Rosie.

The art perfectly fits the story, both supporting and fitting the text. The characters all have different designs that fit their personalities, with diverse body types. I loved that the diversity extended not just to size and shape, but also to their clothing. When the girls are shown in their Lumberjanes uniforms, each girl has a slightly different style that matches their tastes. The sketchy, colorful art really adds to the fun. The overlapping panels can seem a little cluttered to some, but they all flow well and are easy to read.

There really is so much to love about this first volume of Lumberjanes. The girls have great exclamations from “What the Junk!” to calling out well known women such as Joan Jett and Juliette Gordon Low. They are smart, capable, and really just a pleasure to read. I would not object to more stories and characters like this. This title needs to be in every graphic novel and/or tween/teen collection.

Lori Henderson About Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!

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