Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.
Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…
Written by Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh
Art by Carolyn Nowak
Colors by Maarta Laiho
Letters by Aubrey Aiese
Published by Boom! Studios
It’s a new arc and a new adventure for the intrepid Lumberjanes in #18, but that’s not the only thing new. Joining the creative team after co-writer and co-creator Noelle Stevenson’s departure is Kat Leyh, creator of the webcomic Supercakes, but not Power Up. That’s Kate Leth.
With the start of a new arc and a new writer, there is a somewhat obvious tonal change. The last arc did get a bit dark in the latter issues as former Lumberjane Abigail became obsessed with the Grootslang that lived in the mountains outside the camp. It was a very Stevenson touch that recalled back the end of her webcomic Nimona. This arc opens on a sunny day on the lake with some ducks… as some merpeople get into a violent fight as our girls look on. Or rather, they look at April rather pointedly instead.
The issue flashes back, showing the girls hanging out by the lake fishing when Jo catches a leather jacket in the lake. Up to the surface comes Harlow, a merwoman with a purple mohawk, who’s not very happy about Jo “stealing” her jacket. April becomes starstruck because she’s been obsessed with mermaids her entire life. This is immediately where it feels a bit different because the arcs so far have not really had spotlight characters. There have been characters that have had leads in certain parts, but it still always felt like an ensemble book. It was bound to happen eventually when the book switched from a miniseries to ongoing, and it makes sense to do it now after a big arc like the previous one. Plus, Leyh is very good at character beats, both silly and poignant, in a way that’s complementary to the style set up by Watters and Stevenson.
However, it does feel like her voice is still working its way into the comic. It is her first issue after all, but a lot of it is spent on exposition of Harlow’s background of her friendship with her fellow merwoman Taylor and their falling out after Harlow left their band after signing a record deal and less on the shenanigans of the Lumberjanes. It does set those up for future issues though after April declares that they’re going to get the band back together, much to the annoyance of her friends, who just want to go to the Bandicoot Bacchanal back at camp. There are also some great character moments though with the tension between Harlow and the other merpeople and the loving look Jen gives Ripley after pulling her out of the lake. Actually, all of the moments with Jen in this issue are pretty great. As it should be.
Back on art for this issue is Carolyn Nowak, who illustrated the mini arc in issues 10 through 12 about Mal and Molly getting sent back in time with the Bearwoman as Jo, April, and Ripley tried to get as many badges as possible in one day. Nowak is very good at the more “zany” style of cartooning, which is what this arc about punk rock mermaids needs. Complemented by Maarta Laiho’s soft and vibrant colors, Nowak’s character faces are expressive and hilarious. I laughed out loud at April’s slow and wide-eyed realization that she was talking to a merperson, and the girls’ reaction to the giant lake monster that nearly attacks them before Harlow interferes. These are moments that would not quite hit the same with Brooke Allen’s style so it’s nice to see Watters and Leyh playing to Nowak’s strengths.
While it does feel like a transition issue, Lumberjanes #18 was a fun start to a new arc with a new writer. With April taking lead and Nowak’s expressive artwork, it should be fun to see where this mermai- er, merwomyn arc ends up.