Long weekends are for reading comics about girls who go on adventures. Or at least, that’s how my Labor Day weekend shaped up. First up was Lumberjanes, which I’d actually tried to purchase from two different comic book stores on two separate occasions and failed both times, as they had run out. Luckily, my library has all of the digital singles.
I’m a little late to the party on the Lumberjanes love, but if you’re like me and haven’t read it yet, here’s the gist: a group of five girls (they all seem to be around 12) are rooming in the same cabin at a camp similar to a Girl Scout camp. It’s a camp for “hard-core lady-types,” aka the Lumberjanes. They get caught up in a series of adventures involving a woman who turns into a bear, foxes who disappear, a secret underground cave, and lots of other fun magic. They also do the normal camp stuff like play capture the flag and make friendship bracelets.
The premise on its own sounds fun (and it is), but what makes this comic special is the humor, most of which is derived from the really great friendships between the girls. This is the first comic I’ve read where it feels like making the reader laugh is one of the main goals, not just a secondary one. And it succeeds really well – I was chuckling aloud to myself the entire time. This is actually a swear-free comic, so the girls say things like “What the junk!” and “What the Phillis Wheatley were you thinking?” instead. They earn badges like “naval gauging” and “everything under the sum” (a math-related badge). And the girls are awesome friends. One of their catchphrases is “Friendship to the max!” which serves as a sort of battle cry as they head into their next adventure. Their friendship is important to each other and it’s clear they care deeply for each other. I feel like they could be the pre-teen versions of the Rat Queens in some ways. And each girl is distinct in personality as well as look (including skin tone).
As a girl who went to Girl Scout summer camp a few times growing up, I appreciate the clever ways Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen work with the tropes of such a camp. I can say that I probably would have had a much better time if we fought raptors and solved anagrams in underground caves guarded by animated statues, but then it probably also would have been shut down pretty quickly. (One of the main points of humor in the story is the girls’ hapless counselor who can’t keep her wayward campers from getting into scrapes or make the boss lady understand there are really weird things going on). There’s an overarching storyline – what exactly is going on at the camp? – which provides the impetus to keep reading, but really, I’d read it even if each issue were a totally different story. This is definitely a winner (literally, too, since it’s won two Eisners). One of those Eisners was for best publication for teens, but I’d say this is totally appropriate for and appealing to middle grade readers as well. Highly recommended.