In “Lumberjanes” #8, Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Brooke Allen pick up the story right where the last issue ended, revealing what has happened to Jo at the hands of the treacherous Diane.
Like the issues before it, “Lumberjanes” #8 is shaped by cartoon logic and the themes of teamwork and friendship. The team fits together in such a way that every character has a relevant skill set and gets some screentime in every issue. It’s squarely in the same genre as “Scooby Doo” or even “My Little Pony.” The shapes of the stories are of a kind. The solutions to the problems are a little too neat, and there’s a great deal of sentimentality and some silliness.
This kind of cartoon story has its satisfactions, particularly in the comfort and humor of the main characters interacting, sitcom-like, static and defined by their roles. It’s also limiting. The endings always make things whole, restoring things back to original condition. Although there’s always danger, no one is ever seriously hurt. In “Lumberjanes” #8, there’s no doubt that the girls will triumph, and so all the dramatic tension comes from the plot twists, which are unexpected in content but weak on resolution. Since the characters can’t change, the plot must do more heavy lifting. Stevenson and Ellis are creative in the nature of the challenges that the girls face, giving them a chance to show skill with star charts and anagrams, but they don’t take any risks with how wrongs are righted. Everything is put right with some hocus-pocus without any rigorous world-building or a sense of underlying mechanics.
Where “Lumberjanes” shines is in its humor and attitude. A sibling slap-fight is very funny and serves to relieve tension, and the ending scenes have a number of amusing jokes, particularly in Ripley’s decisions and in the arrival of Zeus to claim his wayward kids. The girls face three distinct challenges, into which Stevenson and Ellis inject a novel mix of astronomy, language games and mythology without being overtly didactic in any way.
The action scenes have many characters but there’s never any confusion about what is happening, because Allen’s compositions are clear and her transitions are perfectly smooth. Also, her pacing and facial expressions are crucial to the lightness of “Lumberjanes.” Her depiction of Zeus as an embarrassing, dopey father figure is a highlight of the issue. Laiho’s color work is attractive and shows a lot of range and attention to detail. Her handling of mood changes is understated but sure-handed, moving gradually from the gloomy gray mist of the first page to the rainbow of bright hues in the climax. Throughout, the art team’s exuberance and energy give extra punch to the storytelling.
Stevenson, Ellis and Allen have introduced and maintained a cute and funny cast and upbeat themes. “Lumberjanes” #8 is a satisfying conclusion for the first story arc. It’ll be interesting to see whether the next creative team can build on this solid foundation.