"Lumberjanes" #10 kicks off a new three-part story where the scouts have a rare free day with no activities planned as Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters are joined by guest artist Carolyn Nowak. For a book that firmly established its look and feel in its initial eight issue story arc, the end result here is a lot of fun.
Stevenson and Watters bring the book's trademark humor to the foreground in a matter of minutes as the girls discover that they're behind on their merit badges because they haven't been pursuing "the most boring badges known to Lumberjane-dom." The next thing you know, it's time for them to go after some of the average badges like finding four-leaf clovers, painting a fence, ballroom dancing or making your bed. After having "literally defeated an out-of-control deity" in the first storyline, you can see where the hilarity is soon to ensue for our heroines.
At the same time, we also get Mal and Molly's first date, although -- despite a promise for no adventures until the whole group is back together -- adventure finds them in the form of a bear-woman, strange dimensional warps and dinosaurs. Part of what makes "Lumberjanes" so compelling is its overall sense of the weird and that's exactly what Stevenson and Watters keep running throughout the comic. Don't get me wrong, I love Mal and Molly's date together; as they're learning more about each other's personal lives and interests, there's a certain sweetness to the scene that makes it real and relatable. When the adventure kicks in, though, it's hard to not clap your hands a bit because weirdness has once more found our team.
Nowak had drawn a few pages of "Lumberjanes" #9, but it's here that we get to see her attempt at tackling them for a full issue. Like Allen, she has a soft line, and it brings a nice, attractive look to the comic. She's good at having the girls lounging about or grabbing one another and explaining the latest plan of attack. She handles the page where we watch Mal and Molly follow the Bear Woman all over its boundaries really well, too; it's easy to follow their progress, and she tackles the obstacles (and keeps them moving across the page, like the cliff that serves as both something to climb down as well as a little waterfall) with ease. Since Maarta Laiho colored the earlier issues of the series, that extra level of continuity between them is maintained here; it definitely helps keep the overall visual look from what's gone on earlier.
"Lumberjanes" #10 is back up to full speed after last month's "telling spooky stories" interlude, and that's a relief. Nowak's a great choice for a fill-in artist; you ultimately appreciate her efforts and it makes the temporary lack of Allen not so painful. If you haven't been reading "Lumberjanes," this issue is a perfect spot to jump on and quickly learn why it's such a popular series. Once again, "Lumberjanes" is a winner.