April 17, 2015

TURNING PAGES: THE LUMBERJANES Vol 1, by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen, and Shannon Watters

It's a truth acknowledged universally &tc. that I am not the artsy person in this blogging duo. A.F. - she draws, she's Cybil'd, she has the degree, etc. - so she has the relationships with the graphic novel companies and the graphic novels are her schtick. I... don't know from graphic novels really, and as I've said before, when I was a kid, the only comic books we got were, like, someone's horrible version of the New Testament in graphic form. It was pretty guy-centric, which ironically is probably why (in addition to the muddy artwork and cheap paper) it wasn't something I wanted to read at all. But this comic book series I really wanted to read - not because Leila pretty well rolled around and squealed about it when it first came out, and not only because it was written by a bunch of ladies but mainly because it was about a bunch of lady-types at a kind of scout-y style summer camp. I did scout-y style summer camp for six years - it wasn't just for hardcore lady-types, and we sadly did not have a Pungeon Master patch, but it represented the kind of hands-on fun that makes summers memorable.

Summary: Five good friends - Jo, April, Molly, Mal and Ripley, and we have no idea how they know each other, but they are apparently friends - are together at the Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Girls Hardcore Lady Types. They're just trying to hang out and have a summer, but Things keep happening - first, Things happen in the woods. Then, Things happen down a hole and in a tunnel. Things keep the girls out of "normal" camp activities (whatever those are), make their counselor, Jen, snippy with them, and get them the wink and the nod from camp director Rosie, a Lumberjane lady-type who herself is fond of the odd adventure - and knows what's behind the Things in the woods, possibly.

Each of the girls has particular (and peculiar) strengths to offer the group - super strength at one point, higher math skills, puzzles and punning, no particular fear of weird glowing eyes/rocks/river monsters, etc. - and in an action-packed story arc that is kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel if someone chose the wrong action almost every time, they lurch from one near-disaster to the next - in an endearing way, with a little bickering and plenty of lady-centric exclamations along the way ("Oh, my Bessie Coleman" has got to be the most ladylike exclamation ever.)

Peaks: I love the layout of the books, which place pictures, scrapbook style, atop open pages of Miss Thiskwin's somewhat rambling handbook narratives on the things which a Lumberjane should be able to do to conquer the natural world (not live in harmony with it, no, no, no, subdue that troublesome puppy). The drawings vary by artist, but the girls are always identifiable by their own particular quirks - a splash of blue hair dye, a coonskin cap, etc. Even the paper on which the book is printed has a really nice feel, which is more important that one might realize.

The next obvious positive is the characters. These girls are completely different from each other - but manage to fit. I would have probably tried to drown Ripley once or twice for her completely heedless, hyperactive plunging into -- everything -- but the girls simply hold onto her and redirect her rather than complain. Which is pretty cool of them. Because there are five girls, one of them sometimes feels like the literal fifth wheel - but no lady-type is left behind here, unlike camp in real life, and the girls are always there for each other, in a non-cheesy, and sometimes somewhat wordless way, which is really nice.

Valleys: There aren't really valleys with this book, per se -- because I'm not really a comic book person, I have little quibbles and objections to things that may just be part of the comic book experience - for instance, I want to know where the girls come from, and if they met at camp. I want to witness them getting to know each other. I want to see more girls and to compare them to the girls in our cabin - is it only Roanoke where things are completely bizarre? Are the girls trying to keep that a secret from everyone else?

Sooo, mainly, the biggest drawback here is that there isn't more story IMMEDIATELY. *sigh* Reader greed, when it's a serial story, is an ongoing problem, which is why I'm likely to continue to buy the books as they come out, instead of getting the weekly comic -- I can't take not knowing NOW.

Conclusion: For my first-ever purchase of a comic book, I feel this was a pretty successful series with which to begin. The fact that these are five girls in a cabin called "Roanoke" gave me a grin - scouting camp in the Bermuda Triangle of lost colonies explains the Three-Eyed Things in the Woods fairly well for me. I love that Rosie is a camp director who enjoys woodwork and looks like a refugee from the 1950's. I love that each girl is allowed to be herself. Whimsical and quirky, this adventure left space for the reader to relate to both storyline and characters (though I really think my camp should rethink not having a pun honor) and included boys, but didn't let them be the center-stage in either campcraft or adventures. It's a happy thought to know the series is ongoing, and I'm ready for the next volume in October.

I purchased my copy of this book. You can find THE LUMBERJANES Vol 1 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen, Shannon Watters at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent comic book store near you!


Sarah Stevenson said...

This sounds SO. AWESOME. And fun. I was hooked just from the title. Lumberjanes!! HA! I'm going to have to check it out for sure. It wasn't anywhere on my immediate radar so THANK YOU.

david elzey said...

been following Noelle's work for some time, and glad to see this and her nimonia fantasy series getting out in the world!

and REALLY bummed I was in rural CT sitting on a hay bale at a country wedding on free comic book day!

also also, that new MS MARVEL is... the only words I have betray the time I spent in east Oakland: DEEP and DOPE. I love it, but I've also heard that the print run sold out and places are having a hard time carrying it.

Sarah Stevenson said...

Yes, I was fortunate that our friend Ross collects comics religiously and lent me his copy of Ms. Marvel vol. 1. Very fun.