This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on June 11, 2014.
I have a lot of hope for the generation that follows my own. When I look at the stories that are popular amongst children today, stories like Adventure Time, Regular Show and Avatar: The Last Airbender, I can’t help but smile. They are well told, incredibly creative, and reflect a positive worldview that inspires their viewers and readers. Lumberjanes is another story that fills me with hope for the future.
Lumberjanes #3 moves at a fast enough pace that it could potentially propel a Delorean through time, so somewhere around the speed of 88 miles per hour. Over the course of 22 pages, the girls encounter and overcome six major obstacles ranging from massive, living statuary to clever word puzzles. They use their wits and physical abilities to collaborate and accomplish some pretty incredible feats. That doesn’t even take into consideration the less obvious emotional challenges they must confront. A lot happens in this one issue and it is perfectly paced.
Brooke Allen’s contribution to this accomplishment cannot be overstated. Not only does she layout pages and select panels perfectly in order to relate all of the necessary information, but her frenetic style fits the comic’s fast-pace perfectly. Nothing about her art is small. Action, emotions, and challenges all feel appropriately large and propel the story ever forward. It lends itself to evoking big feelings as well inducing belly laughs and gasps that garnered some odd looks from my significant other. The result is a comic that cannot (and should not) be put down.
Lumberjanes #3 wears its metaphorical heart on its metaphorical sleeve, where heart refers to sources of inspiration and sleeve means something like… pages. Anyway, there are a lot of references to pop culture in this comic and not many of them are disguised. Riley is thrown in a “fastball special”, multiple traps from the Indiana Jones trilogy (that’s right, trilogy!) appear, and there’s even a touch of Ray Harryhausen.
Rather than overwhelm or clutter the story, these inspirations play naturally with the tone. Younger readers may miss most or all of these beats, but it won’t affect their reading experience negatively in any way. Rather than including allusions to popular films and comics for their own sake like in a Seth MacFarlane comedy,Lumberjanes> incorporates popular culture because it fits the tone of their story. Everything that comes from something else enhances the action and character beats of this issue. It adds an additional layer of enjoyment for older readers, while introducing younger ones to clever traps and living statues for the first time.
Amidst all of the action and cleverness, it would be easy to lose track of the human element in Lumberjanes>, but that never happens. The five titular lumberjanes are all clearly defined women with their own unique set of skills, fears, dreams, and etc. Although they may first seem to fit into various character archetypes, Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis are happy to play with expectations. Mal, the resident tough girl, shows a surprisingly senstive side to her friends and April, the brain, is only too happy to accept a physical challenge. All five of these women are treated like fully realized people.
This issue lends additional focus to one of my favorite romances in current comics. Mal and Molly are an odd couple pairing whose relationship feels incredibly sincere. They speak to one another in a way that only intimate friends can and their concern for one another is written (technically, drawn) all over their faces. It’s difficult to not become invested in this pairing because of how pure their relationship is. Like most young romances it is filled with passion and the stakes always seem high, even when they’re not. It’s a great reflection of what it means to be young and in love from creators who are relating from the heart.
The format of this review may seem a little silly, but every word of it is genuine. Lumberjanes is a comic that makes me want to be silly and have fun. It’s a comic about friendship, adventure, and finding the wonder in your world, no matter where you are. Lumberjanes #3 isn’t just a great comic, it’s a reason to be optimistic. I wouldn’t want to ask for more.