Lumberjanes to the Max Edition collects the first 8 issues of the comic, which contains the first story arc. The comic is currently up to its 20th issue, which means I have some catching up to do after this.
The Lumberjanes are an organization for young women, similar to the Girl Scouts. Only these scouts aren’t selling cookies. Our story takes place at the Lumberjanes camp for “Hardcore Lady Types,” where the girls of Roanoke Cabin are having a bit of trouble. Or perhaps they’re IN a bit of trouble. For them, it’s much the same.
As we begin, the girls are surrounded by three-eyed foxes who give them a strange message about a holy kitten. Or something. As camp progresses, our heroes get caught up in a slew of other adventures, from a sea monster to a booby-trapped cave to a herd of dinosaurs running loose around the camp. What’s the meaning of all of this madness? Can this strong, smart, and capable group of girls solve the mystery behind all of these wild creatures and dangerous adventures?
As is often the case, investigating the mystery involves a fair bit of wandering off on their own, sneaking out of their cabin after lights out, and finding ways of ditching their camp counselor, Jen, as she leads them on a much more mundane activity. Sometimes they’re caught doing this, and, sometimes, they’re punished for their behavior. At the same time, though, these girls are encouraged to pursue their curiosity and explore the strange occurrences around them—as long as they stay safe.
That’s one of the things I like about this comic. It’s not about defying those who say you can’t do something. It’s about opening yourself up to the notion that of course you can. That goes for the boys, too. While the Lumberjanes are hiking, tying knots, shooting arrows, and fighting monsters, at the boys’ camp across the way, they’re baking cookies. And, rather than portraying this in a “Haha, the girls are strong and the boys are weak” type of way, it’s fully accepted and celebrated.
There’s also a fair bit of diversity among the girls, in terms of both race and personality. There’s Jo, the smart, practical girl; Molly, the strong, tough girl; Ripley, the over-excited, “headfirst into danger” girl; Mal, the reserved, planning girl; and April, the “girly girl;” however, none of them falls into stereotypes. Ripley could easily be relegated to Shaggy & Scooby status, providing comic relief while making mistakes that almost get everyone killed. April could easily be seen as the weak one, whose femininity holds her back from being as strong and capable as the rest. But, they’re not. Each character is strong and talented and capable in her own, unique way. Each character is integral to the group’s ultimate success. And, even the seemingly strongest and most capable characters sometimes make mistakes.
Not only does the comic set good examples and provide good fictional role models, it’s also very well written. The adventures the girls find themselves on are fun and exciting—sometimes familiar, but just different enough to keep things interesting. The characters are well rounded and multi-layered. And, the dialogue is quirky and funny. In particular, they employ a number of fun exclamations that substitute for expletives in this all-ages title. Strange and surprising events are frequently met with cries of, “What the junk?” as well as retro expressions like “Cool your jets,” and swearing by the names of a variety of famous historical women (some of whom you may have to Google). It’s little quirks like these that keep things fun and interesting all through.
All in all, this is a really good comic. I can’t recommend it heartily enough. If you are a girl ages 9-14, you need to read Lumberjanes. If you know any girls ages 9-14, you should give them Lumberjanes to read. If you are or know any boys ages 9-14, they should read Lumberjanes, as well, to combat any preconceived notions of traditional gender roles. And, if you are an adult, over the age of 14, either male of female, you still should read Lumberjanes, mainly because it’s just a great read, and you’ll enjoy it.