[21 May 2014]
Right off the bat, Lumberjanes grabs you with its catchy title and fun concept—girl scouts fight monsters in the woods. The art is clean and simple, with a style that will appeal to Cartoon Network viewers and immediately identifies it as an all ages comic, an area BOOM! Studios has been dominating in. It should be noted that Lumberjanes is published under the BOOM! Box imprint, a recent initiative that allows creators to experiment with new ideas and make comics “for the love of it,” which seems to be their official slogan.
Lumberjanes is not the most experimental comic on the stands, however it certainly fits the bill of creators injecting their passion into the project. The all female creative team have no doubt sprinkled their personalities into these characters which makes for a refreshing change of pace in a male-centric industry. Not to say that boys couldn’t enjoy this comic also, but it’s encouraging to see a comic that stars girl scouts which the next generation of female comic readers can enjoy and identify with. It doesn’t hurt that the girls know how to kick butt when push comes to shove, whether it be in hand-to-hand combat with some bloodthirsty foxes or a well-placed scrunchie to the eye of a river monster. But before you snatch this out of your child’s hands, the violence never gets out of hand and the deft humor keeps it light and harmless (if the scrunchie to the eye wasn’t a big enough indicator).
Speaking of the personalities, we’re only a couple issues in, but the girls’ distinct voices are already beginning to take shape. The first issue throws you right into it and there are snippets of dialogue that distinguish the girls, but by issue two it’s clear who’s who. You’ve got the centered girl, the worrywart, the snarky one, the realist and the obligatory off-the-wall one who will no doubt be a trouble magnet for the group’s future adventures. They balance each other out well and offer enough variety in their demeanors that readers won’t have any trouble finding a character to relate with.
Not being a licensened title, Lumberjanes does face an uphill battle in building an audience among the already saturated market cluttered with endless comic adaptations of well-established brands. In a way, Lumberjanes’ biggest competition is with its own publisher putting out popular titles like Adventure Time and Bravest Warriors but if they play it smart and cross promote, hopefully Lumberjanes can ride that wave of success and build its own fan base. It’s certainly worthy and I could easily see itself becoming a licensed property itself if given the right marketing push. Is it the next Scott Pilgrim? For now, it’s too early to say, but it has the right ingredients to make it a hit comic if it continues to world build.
Speaking of which, beyond the surface of what is seemingly a random string of Goonies-inspired girl scout camping adventures, lies a mysterious undercurrent that hints at a connection between the evil monsters they’ve encountered. Certainly the fact that they all bear a third eye comes to mind, as if they’re all seeing what the others see. Maybe I’m reading too much into that but I hope not. There’s undoubtedly more to these woods than the camp director is letting on and there have been a couple unexplained artifacts along the way that will unquestionably work their way into the plot.
From the look of it, this series can work as both offering fun stand-alone adventures, but also weaving in subtle clues to a bigger threat at play. This kind of world building storytelling is what will give the series legs and keep readers coming back for more every month. I, for one, hope that whatever abomination the camp director was carving out of wood (some kind of amalgam of a jackal with antlers, an eagle, a beaver and God knows what else) pops up in a most unexpected way and scares the hell out of the girls.
Maybe Lumberjanes is more original than I initially gave it credit for. There certainly isn’t anything else out there quite like it. I’m admittedly not the target audience, but even so, it has a charm to it and its lighthearted humor will bring a smile to your face. If you’re looking to get your young daughter or student into reading comics, this is a great place to start. It’s not quite what I expected and that’s a good thing.