Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy #1 Review and **SPOILERS**

You Got Your Gotham Academy in My Lumberjanes!

Written By: Chynna Clugston Flores
Art By: Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Maddi Gonzalez, Whitney Cogar
Letters By: Warren Montgomery
Cover Price: $3.99
On Sale Date: June 8, 2016


So if Gotham Academy is in the same comic book universe as Lumberjanes, does that mean that the ladies at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types know about the exploits of the Flash? Does this mean they were enslaved when the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 took over the planet a couple of years ago? Could Buddy “Animal Man” Baker send his daughter to the camp? The mind reels. The fact is, if the kids from either comic are able to meet in the same dimension, that means they all exist in a world with Batman, and that makes it an awesome world indeed. Lumberjanes is one of my favorite comics, and I’ve shown to be pretty fond of Gotham Academy as well, so when I heard this crossover was coming out, I demanded to be the one to review it. Jim’s answer was, “What’s a Lumberjane?” If you’re wondering the same, then read on and find out!

Explain It!

So I’m going to guess that most readers of Weird Science DC Comics are more familiar with the folks in Gotham Academy than they are with Lumberjanes. The latter is a comic book about the wacky hijinks and white-knuckle adventures at an all-girls camp known as Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, which teaches self-reliance and butt-kicking to the young ladies in attendance. Like Gotham Academy, Lumberjanes has a big implied cast but centers around the specific stories of a smaller group of characters, and like Gotham Academy, Lumberjanes specializes in mysteries of the spooky variety. But lest you think Lumberjanes is merely Gotham Academy, trading sweater vests for badge sashes, there’s something you don’t know about these hardcore lady types: one of them has powers. Let’s meet the campers:

Jen: Scout leader for the cabin the rest of the girls inhabit, she is super protective of them but also understands that they are basically superheroes. She often tries to keep the Lumberjanes out of danger, to no avail.

Jo: Sort of the de facto leader of the group if and when Jen is otherwise unavailable, she’s a “by the book” kinda gal that often comes up with the plan after other girls’ exuberance has gotten them into dire straits.

Mal: The tough-looking punk rocker of the group that’s really a big ol’ softie, she is very close with Molly. She comes up with the plans that go horribly awry or are simply unrealistic fantasy.

Molly: Wears a live raccoon on her head and has crazy archery skills, yet suffers from low self-esteem. She stays near Mal.

April: A spunky little firebrand with a penchant for punning and positivity, who also has super strength. I’m serious. I’ve seen her straight up punch through rock walls. In this very comic book she kicks a tree over to form a makeshift bridge. I mean, I don’t think she’s Superman-level powerful, but she might be able to lump Bane’s meat. And I’d buy that comic book, you betcha.

Ripley: I’m pretty sure she’s a squirrel monkey in human skin. Loves kittens.

One person I didn’t mention is the head counselor, Rosie, a kind of spry old lady who encourages heartiness and seems to know all about the fact that the camp is pretty much surrounded at all times by ghosts and monsters. In the beginning of this book, she’s hanging out in the woods near an inhabited cabin when she is approached by something off-panel that makes a weird noise and, she observes, is very tall. Rosie fires a flare into the sky, which signals trouble to Jen since she intones, “This is bad.”
See? Told ya.
Three hours earlier and at a different comic book publisher, Olive Silverlock is late to hand in an overdue paper for Ms. McPherson’s class at Gotham Academy :audience cheers:. Her BFF Maps Mizoguchi :louder cheering: wakes her up and accompanies Olive to McPherson’s office, where a bunch of students are gathered outside murmuring their murmurs. Olive and Maps peek into the office to find it completely disheveled, but before they can investigate Headmaster Hammerhead to scram, which of course has never worked in the history of Gotham Academy. Later, the whole gang: Olive, Maps, Pomeline, Kyle, and Colton, are creeping through the air ducts and sneak into Ms. McPherson’s office, where they find an invitation to a weekend-long birthday party at the home of Louise Nithercott-Greenwood, on Friday the 13th1986??? The invite even has this cheesy 80s vibe to it. So of course, and as Olive says aloud: “It’s up to us to help her!” The gang steals her car and takes off for wherever Ms. Nithercott-Greenwood lives, we don’t get to see the address.

Back at the camp—in the present, I assume—Jen is rooting through Rosie’s cabin for some kind of clue pertaining to her distress and…can we just talk about Rosie’s cabin here for a second? It’s full of some of the weirdest shit I have ever seen: A two-headed squirrel under glass. A taxidermied Griffin with a deer head, complete with antlers. A set of nunchucks. And a flipping hairy, red arm with an eyeball embedded in the palm of the hand. This isn’t the appendage of some otherwise normal creature, she only has the arm and hand. Is this really the person best suited to run a recreational camp? So all Jen can find is some pictures of a cabin, which we know is the cabin that Rosie was skulking around at the beginning of this comic, and suspect is the location of Louise Nithercott-Greenwood if we’ve been paying any attention to the story. Jen says she didn’t tell the girls because she didn’t want them to get mixed up in any danger, but guess what: they love getting mixed up in danger! And so they set out to save Rosie to the rousing cry of “We’re coming to get you Rosie!” by Ripley. Meanwhile, the students of Gotham Academy Prep School are cruising in Ms. McPherson’s car in some similar-looking woods to those that house the Lumberjanes’ camp. After some nice banter, they come to the preordained spot from one of Maps’ maps and set out on foot. While they collect themselves and follow the dubious map, everyone engages in chatter, which was a little unsettling…didn’t anyone tell the writer that Gotham Academy is really The Fantastic Adventures of Olive and Maps and Sometimes Pomeline and Also These Two Dudes Sometimes? Reading actual and substantial dialogue from Colton was especially odd, but I must say I liked it. All of the characterization in this book is good, and each character has her or his own voice. Nice to see.

So, long but awesome story short, the Lumberjanes bump into the Gotham Academy kids, and they get along famously. It really is a pretty funny and entertaining meet-up, somewhat encouraged by April who identifies herself as the “Pungeon Master,” but I’m not going to give you the particulars. I’m not even going to tell you about the part where Kyle references the movies Meatballs and Friday the 13th, you’ll just have to get the book to see the first meeting of these two legendary YA properties. So after they show up, three super tall cloaked figures with deer skulls for heads and bony hands that shoot some kind of zappy ray emerge from the shadows are are like “YOU ARE TRESPASSING” all creepy-like, so the combined forces of the Lumberjanes and Gotham Academy decide to take immediate action and get the hell out of there. They split up into three groups, the three monster demons each taking off after a pack of them. Maps, Ripley and Kyle make it across a footbridge that one of the satan ghosts zaps into uselessness, stranding itself on the other side. Maps is worried for the rest of the crew, but Ripley assures her that Lumberjanes are hella resourceful, as evidenced when they watch April straight up kick a tree down that falls across the canyon that Colton, Pomeline and Jo run across to safety. That leaves Olive, Jen, Mal and Molly, who are being hotly pursued by a spectral beast, when Olive decides the only way the others will escape is if she sacrifices herself. Jen gets Mal and Molly to the felled tree, but determines to go back into the forest and save Olive, leaving the rest of the combined team to regroup back at camp…for another go, of course!

This comic is a lot of fun, and though I think I was particularly tickled to see a lot of characters I like hanging out together, I’d expect anyone can pick this up and follow along. There might be some ancillary name drops that get missed, but the story is complete and the characters are evident in their speech and actions, which is, uh, good characterization and stuff. The art is in line with the usual Lumberjanes style and conveys plenty of motion, though at times it struggles to convey emotion (See what I did there? April would be proud.) I think the core formula for this issue was more Lumberjanes than Gotham Academy, but that’s not a bad thing at all. Though it got a little talky at times, I enjoyed this comic book a lot and I will definitely be hiking on to the next issue, by which I mean I am going to sit on my ass and read it digitally while eating a platter of Ho Ho’s.

Bits and Pieces:

If these intellectual properties were actual kids and not just fictional intellectual properties, I think they'd get a long. A lot of good character moments and genuine displays of friendship, as are the hallmarks of Lumberjanes, propel the story at this point, since there's not a ton of action. What I've seen so far indicates that this is going to be a really good time, though, and fans of either Gotham Academy or Lumberjanes would do well to give it a look. Fans of both comic books, our reading group meets on Thursdays at the library.

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