Here’s another one of those comics I’m definitely NOT the target audience for, but it won lots of awards, and I wanted to know why. This collection of the first 8 issues (a complete story arc) allowed me to find out.
The Lumberjanes are along the lines of Girl Scouts, at a summer camp in the woods. The collection is set up like a scout manual, with each issue presented as, in part, the quest for a particular merit badge. There’s lots of nods and winks to real scouting, as well as humor in this approach, with merit badges such as “Jail Break Badge,” and “Up All Night Badge.” The camp name has “Girls” crossed out and replaced with “Hardcore Lady Types.” The lady types of Roanoke Cabin, above, are a brave and spirited bunch who are determined to have fun at this camp, and get the most out of it, even when beset by all kinds of weird dangers and unusual events. Right at the start of the first chapter we know things are far from normal at the camp when the girls are set upon by a pack of three-eyed foxes. Before long there are magic amulets and crystals, underground caverns full of death traps, dinosaurs, magical beings, even gods and goddesses. Their camp counselor, a slightly older girl, tries to keep them in line, but events are always getting out of hand for Roanoke Cabin. Even the camp commander is not exactly what she seems.
Throughout the story there are puzzles and mysteries to be solved, camp activities and skills to master, and the friendships between the girls of Roanoke are tested, but remain strong. It’s an empowering story for girls, even with all the weirdness. The art owes a lot to Saturday Morning cartoons, but with the influence of independent comics like BONE, I would say. I found it hard to take the characters very seriously at first because of that cartoony art, but they grew on me, and by the end I was right there with them. The writing is fresh, funny, creative and charming. This is, indeed, worthy of merit badges galore.