Jun 24, 2015

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters and Brooke Allen

Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Brooke Allen

Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters,  Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Brooke AllenLumberjanes is a comic book series about a group of close friends spending the summer at a scout camp (official name: Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types). April, Jo, Ripley, Mal and Molly are five young teens determined to have fun and to live up to the camp’s motto, “Friendship to the max”. When it becomes apparent that the woods surrounding the Lumberjanes’ camp are infested with supernatural creatures, well, they don’t let that get in their way. Together with their beloved camp counsellor Jen, the girls face giant wolves, yetis, velociraptors, dangerous mazes, and Greek gods run amok. They run into the mysterious Bear Woman who lives in the woods and try to understand their enigmatic camp director, Rosie — all while enjoying the enormous pleasure of each other’s company.

I waited until the first trade paperback was out before I started reading Lumberjanes, even though I’d been hearing great things about the series since last year. This was mainly because I’ve never been in the habit of reading comics as single issues, and also because I like to binge on stories. You’ll notice, however, that this isn’t a post about Lumberjanes Vol 1 (which collects the first four issues of the comic): as soon as I finished the book, I knew I needed more. So for only the second time ever (the first time having been for my beloved Carol Danvers), I treated myself to some digital comics and devoured all 15 issues of Lumberjanes. This, it turns out, was absolutely the correct life decision.

Lumberjanes:  April, Jo, Ripley, Mal and Molly saying 'We can explain!'
Writing about Lumberjanes has turned out to be a bit like writing about Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries last year. I started out thinking that I probably wouldn’t have much to say beyond “yay, this comic is so much fun!”, but slowly I began to realise that the reasons why I was able to relax into this story were worth discussing (you’d think I’d have learned by now). Like Miss Fisher, Lumberjanes is restful largely because it’s “devoid of constant reminders that girls can’t do or be certain things”, and this will never not be a big deal for me.

Lumberjanes is a fun story about girls having adventures. It represents a wide variety of girls who enjoy different things, have different body types, fall in love with each other (or not), adopt furry critters, are terrible at frosting cakes, are excellent at making scrap books, are impressive arm wrestlers, like hugs, outsmart dinosaurs, solve elaborate riddles — in short, remind us in every page that there’s no wrong way of being a girl. The world of Lumberjanes takes it for granted that girls and women are human beings, with all the complications and infinite variations inherent to that — a fact that shouldn’t be worthy of note, but still is in our cultural landscape. Again, the power in numbers principle applies: in a series with such a large cast of girls and woman, none of them has to carry the weight of representing their gender as a whole. Whatever they like, whatever they do, whatever they excel or fail at is allowed to belong to them alone.
Lumberjanes: April, Jo and Ripley hold a scrap book.
I’d seen Lumberjanes referred to as a young version of Rat Queens, and I can see why the comparison is apt. I also think the series would appeal to Buffy fans, especially for the snappy dialogue and the girls’ quick and witty comebacks. Lumberjanes is a more egalitarian kind of story, though, which is yet another thing that made me happy. There is no chosen one: instead, there’s an emphasis on collaboration and on girls with different skills coming together to defeat the threat of the week.

Lumberjanes and unicorns
Also (spoiler), the moment when Ripley uses her newly acquired universe-destroying powers to make sure nobody is allowed to do any harm (after, that is, magically conjuring kittens for everyone) was a powerful subversion of common assumptions about human nature. It’s not true, Lumberjanes reminds us, that the siren call of power will corrupt everyone. The girl who says she wants to spend the summer with her friends and make sure the world is there for them to enjoy isn’t saying that simply because she hasn’t had the chance to treat others as pawns. Perhaps she genuinely means it — perhaps many of us do. Equally important is the fact that a rejection of power we’d inevitably read as gendered in most stories doesn’t have that connotation here simply because there are women everywhere. There are women who do want to rule the universe for dubious purposes, women who do yield power and do it sensibly, women who just want to hang out with their friends — women everywhere, making the myriad choices human beings are bond to make.
Lumberjanes: Mal explains her plan
Lastly, have I mentioned that Lumberjanes is fun? There’s an enormous sense of joy to these stories, plus they’re full of pop culture references (anything from Indiana Jones to Jurassic Park to Frozen), hilarious exchanges, scenes with humour and heart, and dorky jokes that are exactly up my alley (“Dinosauria Minutulus Jerkfacius” cracked me up more than it probably should have). In short, I’m a proud Lumber Jumbie: this series makes me incredibly happy and I’ll continue to buy each new issue the moment it becomes available.

Lumberjanes: 'The cold never bothered us anyway'

Lumberjanes: Jen says 'Friendship bracelets'

14 comments:

  1. Oooooo! I love this post!!! It makes me so happy! So much love, so much fun, so much GIRL POWER. <3

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    1. <3 I could have written another five paragraphs about how much the girls love each other (and Jen!) and how that's celebrated in the stories. ALL THE LOVE for this series. (Today I'm kind of heartbroken that Noelle Stevenson is leaving, but she said it was going to stay in good hands and I trust that.)

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    2. WHAT???? I hadn't heard that! I'm so heartbroken!

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  2. Welp, I'm sold. No more waiting on this one for me.

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    1. Excellent :D I'm pretty sure you'll love it, but let me know anyway.

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  3. I agree with everything you said. One of the things I really love about this series is that I can share it with all three of my kids. They've really enjoyed Lumberjanes.

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    1. Aww, that's lovely :D It definitely appeals to a wide range of ages.

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  4. I have had a hold on this at my library for. ever., and it still has not arrived in my greedy hands. My library's copy of it does not even appear to have arrived at my library yet. GROSS INJUSTICE. I am hoping that all this does is increase my anticipation for it. I loved Nimona so!

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    1. I loved Nimona too, but *whispers* I think I loved this even more. Gross injustice indeed! Please hurry up, Jenny's library.

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  5. I read the paperback collection and loved it. You are making me think I might need to get the rest of the comics like you did.

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    1. You absolutely do! It only gets better and better.

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  6. Ohmigosh. I want to be referred to as a hardcore lady type.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.