What on Infinite Earths is: Lumberjanes
Lumberjanes is a comic series aimed at younger readers that perfectly captures the feeling of the old “boys adventure” stories of a few decades ago, updated with an all-female cast, a sense of self-awareness and just the faintest hint of queer Young Adult sensibilities. It opens with action and quips before delving into its ensemble cast, carefully exposing each of them to the reader in small groups so that you can quickly absorb the details of their disparate personalities.
I have had some experience of Noelle Stevenson’s work, so I came into this book already armoured with a healthy veneer of cynicism. I expected her to make me love these characters, whether I wanted to or not. Yet even with my guard up, these damned Lumberjanes managed to sneak past and make me care about them. Stevenson has an exceptional talent for personality that the unique designs of each character only emphasise. Even saying nothing and doing nothing, every one of the cast oozes personality and they are all just so damned likeable.
I am loath to use a phrase like “universal appeal” but Lumberjanes ticks a lot of different boxes. The chaotic action and light-hearted plot will appeal to its supposed target demographic but there are a lot of jokes snuck into the comic that only older readers are likely to pick up. On the other end of the scale there are a few pop culture references and phrases that have significance to younger readers that will mean nothing to someone in their thirties. Friendship, mysticism and the odd flicker of an absolutely adorable romance fill out the rest of the story, weaving together, through the character’s relationships, to create an impenetrable backdrop to the neatly contained arcs of the plot.
The plot is not the centrepiece of the comic but it drives events along at a steady pace.
The most appealing thing about Lumberjanes is that it doesn’t seem to have a bad bone in its entire body. In the current comics climate of murderous neo-Nazi superheroes, overwhelming ennui and “darker and edgier” relaunches, a book that is full of what I am forced to describe as “goodness” is a remarkable antidote. Reading this comic made me genuinely happy. The humour is not rooted in denigrating others, the decisions that the characters make are all based in kindness and affection for one another and while there is danger in the world that they inhabit, you never truly believe that harm will come to anyone, because in addition to being good people, every one of the characters is, within their own area of expertise, an unmitigated badass.
No matter how shrivelled your heart has become, Lumberjanes will still bring joy to it, even if it is only out of false sense of nostalgia for a time when you were surrounded by the promise of friendship and adventure.