Noelle Stevenson and gang have done a great job with this issue, which appears to be a special “filler” before we kick off the next arc on the comic. Filler issues usually equates to guest artists, and the editorial team took advantage of the opportunity to bring an all-star cast of creators on board.
Multiple artists on the book is often a mixed bag — it’s often because the designated artist couldn’t finish the work on time, or part of a hit/miss anthology. Here, the wildly differing styles of Faith Erin Hicks, Becca Tobin et al. work to the benefit of the issue’s plot, which sees our protagonists sitting around a campfire relating ghost stories.
Here’s a quick run down of some of my favourite panels from this issue —
Brittney Williams illustrated the campfire moments of this issue. This was a truly inspired choice because Williams’s artistic style shares the young, energetic sensibilities of the series’ regular artist, Brooke Allen. The reader is not jarred by the presence of a new artist so returning to the world of Lumberjanes is as fun as it is every other month. Maarta Laiho’s lovely colours help too, of course, keeping everything consistent.
But don’t get me wrong, the art still feels very much “Brittney Williams” (I say, as someone mostly only familiar with her amazing Daily Planet Files fan art), in the best possible way.
Within the comic, the first campfire tale is from Jo (left in the above panel). In that pesky thing called “reality”, it is actually penned and drawn by Faith Erin Hicks. Hick is an award-winning comics artist and writer, so it’s entirely unsurprising that “Ghost Girl” is not just a nifty addition to the campfire scene, but also gorgeously drawn. The period details, character expressions and backdrops are just stunning! And they make the punchline even more, well, punchy.
Lumberjane Riley takes her turn next. Where Jo is tall and, er, calm, Riley is tiny and hyperactive — a veritable ball of energy. It’s a pleasant surprise when the more frightening elements of her campfire story take a very philosophical turn that I suspect most readers will be able to sympathise with.
And, just. Look at this psychedelic art by Becca Tobin. This is absolutely a snapshot of Riley’s imagination.
And then it’s time for another drastic style switch, albeit one that feels spiritually similar to Hicks’ work. Punk rock Mal tells a spooky supernatural tale wherein a couple take a night drive through a snow-covered forest. One panel in, and I am completely in love with the art by Carolyn Nowak. Look at that dark blue/grey landscape! That snow! Those tree tops! Atmospheric doesn’t even cover it. The rest of the book has a very summern night feel to it, but this panel, and this story? Definitely the perfect thing for a hazy cold December night.
Overall, Nowak’s work has that same, slightly cartoon-ish/coloured comic strip feel that Hicks’ does. They both draw people very differently, though, so I definitely wouldn’t call it “same-y” (just in the same family of awesome). This section also features a kickass, no-nonsense, grandmotherly-looking sheriff who [SPOILERS!] not only saves the day, but also provides a much needed voice of reason [/end SPOILERS!], so it’s good stuff all around.
(Apparently Nowak is filling in for Brooke Allen on issues #10-12. YAY!)
The next “chapter” of the anthology comes in the guise of a story related by Molly. This one is the scariest of the bunch… and, okay, it probably isn’t going to scare seasoned horror fans, but given that this is an all-ages comic, parental units might want to vet through the tale of Tailypo before letting their kiddos at it. Just look at those creepy yellow eyes, and that nasty sharp teeth… yikes! Felicia Choo’s scratchy art takes this up to another level on the scare-o-meter.
Following the terrors of Tailypo is “Old Betty”, drawn by T. Zysk and told by fashionista April. It’s meant to be even scarier than Tailypo and the other Lumberjanes end up equally impressed and terrified. I didn’t find it scary as such, perhaps because it feels like a typical ghost story (and therefore a tad predictable), but the art reminds me a great deal of the ghost stories I used to read as a kid. You know – the ones that came in little anthologies, with sepia-toned accompanying art work.
Er, maybe that was just in Singapore, back in the day, when I used to obsess over all of my sister’s old books.
Anyway, the sepia works very well with the sketchy look of T. Zysk here. It adds to the olden small-town mystery feel of April’s spooky re-telling.
I cannot end this post without mentioning camp counselor Jen, who we actually see in the beginning of the issue completely fail at the whole spooky story thing. Well, Jen, ever the overachiever, decides she must get the last word and now allow her charges to outdo her in this most scared of campfire traditions. Both of Jen’s attempts are illustrated by Aimee Fleck, and they are glorious.
The resemblance between Jen and “Vicky” is uncanny. Uncanny enough that the 80s/early 90s vibe is as confusing as it is terrifyingly accurate and hilarious; I had pegged Jen to be an older teenager (or a young adult entering her 20s), so she was probably a tiny sprog in that era, but that’s probably just me reading too much into things.
In any case, Jen’s second try pays off, and she very much succeeds in spooking our other heroines. Yay! And how glad am I that Jen has become a part of the gang, too. She’s a fun, older presence, the long-suffering kind who’ll go out one limb to make sure her troop is up to scratch and safe at all times.
I’ve enjoyed all the issues of Lumberjanes so far, but this was the one that got me thinking, “I wish the Lumberjanes were a real thing!”. They are, kind of, in that they’re a fictional analogue of the Girl Scouts*. But look at these cool badges, designed by Kate Leth! I hope the Lumberjanes brand continues to take off so I can get my nieces and nephews into this, even if some of them are still too young too read the comic. Friendship to the max!
*Ramble time: the Girl Scouts of America do seem pretty cool, between those cookies and the uniforms with the cargo pants. But I was a member of the Girl Guides in Singapore (FYI: Girl Scouts were originally founded as Girl Guides by the Baden-Powells, but you know how Americans are, always having to be different… :P) and it was completely boring and useless. We just sat around singing songs. Every single session. In the sweltering Singapore heat. Not a forest or campfire to be seen. We never really worked for any badges, either, much less cool ones. But it could just be that the troop leaders in my school weren’t the best ambassadors for the Girl Guides brand. I’d rather be a Lumberjane, anyway!