Any time I want an excuse to smile, I can open up “Lumberjanes” — and issue #6 is no exception. The girls play a magical, over-the-top game of Capture-the-Flag that reveals more of what’s going on at their camp while still finding time for tag and jailbreaks. There still isn’t a great deal of plot, but the fun characters, fantastical elements and beautiful colors always make this series utterly worth the read.
Stevenson and Ellis are keeping the mystery of what’s really going on at this camp close to their chests. Each issue drops another small hint, and while the reader’s knowledge is accumulating, it isn’t necessarily pointing to anything concrete just yet. The characters also aren’t growing much; these indefatigable Lumberjanes rarely face an obstacle they can’t overcome together. In this way, “Lumberjanes” doesn’t have much in the way of an overall arc; it’s primarily episodic so far.
Still, it’s just such a good time. No one does anything by halves; even the most measured characters throw themselves in the path of danger and talk in all caps. By holding off any explanations, Stevenson and Ellis have given themselves a magic without rules, and they use it to surprise the reader with fresh antics and enchantments. I can rarely guess what I’m going to see in “Lumberjanes.”
Brooke Allen’s art is also a delight. From elaborate Capture-the-Flag costumes to Ripley’s absurd expressions of surprise, she embraces the hyperbole and happiness of the script. I especially love her more creative layouts, which really run with the camp setting. For example, last issue, she dropped in a wonderful full-page instruction in making friendship bracelets. This month, she has the girls plotting their Capture-the-Flag strategy over a giant, dirt-drawn map of the woods. It’s some fun, effortless-to-read exposition that does so much to establish the look and feel of the book. I look forward to seeing her imagination work in every issue.
Marta Laiho’s thick, bright colors are also fantastic. Allen’s thick inking could easily overwhelm most palettes, but Laiho matches her with a strong, vibrant color scheme. The greens and blues of the forest look like a fairytale, while the oranges and reds of the girls’ clothing look like a Saturday morning cartoon. Her color choices always impress me. For instance, Diane’s magical powers manifest as lavender and electric purple; against the dark brown and green of the woods, it’s a lovely, lively contrast. “Beautiful” might seem like a pretentious descriptor for a whacky book about pseudo-Girl Scouts, but the color work here is just pitch-perfect.
I’ve mentioned how much I like Aubrey Aiese’s text treatments before, but it bears repeating. The font she uses for the dialogue is whimsical in all the best ways, and when characters cry out, she gives them exaggerated, all-caps red letters. The font really helps to sell some of the sillier lines.
All in all, “Lumberjanes” is still one of the happiest books on the shelf. By the time it hits double-digit issues, I’d like to see the plot move more, but for now I’m just enjoying getting to know these characters and their setting.