“Lumberjanes” #11 is another great romp through Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters and Carolyn Nowak’s friend-tastic summer camp. Everyone’s on a quest in this issue: Mal, Molly and the Bear Woman struggle to escape the “place of lost things,” while April, Jo and Ripley try to win some merit badges back home. It’s full of the series’ usual hyperbole, humor and whimsical artwork but, more significantly, it deepens the reader’s understanding of Mal, Molly and their relationship.
Of the two plots, Mal and Molly’s is the more emotionally compelling, as it’s clearly meant to be. Lost in the perilous “place of lost things” with small hope of getting out, Mal loses her nerve and Molly is there for her with bravery and comfort to spare. The irrepressible Scouts are usually shown at their boldest and most adventurous, covering each other’s backs as they outsmart raptors and outthink angry deities. It’s a lovely shift to see them support one another at their weakest and most vulnerable. Mal and Molly’s conversation about bravery is not only sweet but also provides a tonal break from the frenzy in the rest of the book.
Despite the shift, the scene still feels very “Lumberjanes.” Mal still ends the discussion saying, “Shut upppp, you’re THE BRAVEST” into Molly’s shoulder while the Bear Woman drools in the right corner of the panel. It’s honest and adolescent, and it transitions easily into the mania of Jo, Ripley and April’s merit-badge attempts. This secondary storyline is a wild one. From the punning badge names to April’s ludicrous intensity, it’s a whole lot of fun (and, I like to think, a winking political statement on mis-channeling female ambition into domesticity).
Carolyn Nowak’s exaggerated, imaginative artwork holds the whole thing together. Whether drawing the girls’ utterly animated faces or a dino-ridden fantasy world, she has such a spirited style. The Lumberjanes never look posed or frozen, and the whole word bristles with untapped energy. In part, this is because the work isn’t weighed with details; Nowak’s figures are drawn with simple, broad lines, and so everyone seems to be moving in whatever direction the lines are. That said, Nowak doesn’t always nail the visual humor of the gags. Some of her choices, such as Ripley’s ballroom dress, are over-obvious and therefore don’t read as funny as they could. I’d love to see her push her visuals a bit more in the coming issues, since she does everything else so well.
Colorist Maarta Laiho fills issue #11 with spunky color and warmth. The Scouts don’t often leave the woods, and Laiho takes advantage of Mal and Molly’s journey to another dimension to really work the skyline. The sunset, twilight and starlight in the “place of lost things” clearly establish the different tone of the Mal and Molly storyline, while the electric green grass and warm red-brown cabins match the intensity of the other girls’ merit-badge ambitions. Laiho also doesn’t drag any of the movement out of Nowak’s linework.
“Lumberjanes” is just a treasure. I’m thrilled that BOOM! made this an ongoing series. It’s one of the most inclusive, enjoyable all-ages titles on the shelves.