Joining a creative team on an established comic can be difficult, so I’ve been trying to give the current “Lumberjanes” storyline (which has new co-writer Kat Leyh join Shannon Watters and returning guest-artist Carolyn Nowak) the benefit of the doubt. At the same time, in the second part of a story involving mermaids living under the lake, there’s no denying this comic is missing a bit of its spark.
Part of the problem is that the comic feels a little too blatant and on the nose. April’s brashness and Ripley’s desire to get her dress completed both lack any real subtlety; the second the issue begins, you know that there will be problems caused by April which make things spin out of control, and sure enough that’s exactly where the comic heads. Watters and Leyh have other characters note that April doesn’t realize she’s being a little selfish, but that doesn’t change the fact the characters comes across as a combination of brash and inept, which is a thoroughly unlikable character composition. It doesn’t help matters that April and Ripley are the only two characters to really even get a focus, and Ripley’s is so one-note (wanting to get back to camp to finish her dress) it’s barely worth mentioning. “Lumberjanes” at its best focuses on most of the main characters and gives them all little special moments, but that’s absent this month.
Nowak did a good job the first time she stepped in for a guest artist stint, so it’s a little disappointing to see it not quite come together this time around. The characters look a little flat and too stripped down, and the moment when the wrong tape is put in the stereo (and the resulting attack) looks jumbled and confusing rather than easy to follow. By the time we get to the “for the love of Amphitrite” scene, April’s face comes across as a scrawl, and — in the panel with all six girls — it’s hard to avoid noticing that three of them have almost the exact same profile. This isn’t one of Nowak’s better contributions to the series, unfortunately, and this is a comic where the script could have used strong art to prop it up.
In the end, “Lumberjanes” #19 is a big disappointment. There’s a funny bit near the beginning where we learn that, in the “Lumberjanes” universe, “The Baby-Sitters Club” series was instead, “The Mermaid Lemonade Stand” series, but it’s not enough to carry this story. Hopefully, the next storyline will bring the series back up to its earlier levels of greatness, but — for the moment — this is a far cry from the fun we normally find in “Lumberjanes.”