Maybe I’m just a grouch and wasn’t in the right mood, but this didn’t do much for me. The pieces to make up a good mystery/adventure book are all there, from the lovable misfits to the spooky circumstances surrounding a mysterious cabin, it’s just that the finished product is left lacking.
Brandon gave the first issue fairly high marks last month, and I mostly agreed with him: having never read a single issue of Lumberjanes before, it was still a charming meeting between that group and the students from Gotham Academy. The ‘janes are an unfamiliar group, but given time I’d like to get to know them individually and as a group. With a six-issue miniseries, that’s plenty of time to get introductions and personalities out of the way so they can interact with Olive, Maps, Pomeline and the rest of the Academy group.
Unfortunately, even in its second month there aren’t many characters that have left much of an impact on me. Without looking it up, I can really only remember the names of two of the Lumberjanes, and beyond some very basic quirks and traits (Mal has the crazy hair; one of the girls has a raccoon on her head that may or may not be alive), I don’t feel like any of these characters that are new to me are very interesting. The way it’s written, this mini feels like the “next issue” of both properties, working under the assumption that you already know who any of these characters are, and it doesn’t take any time to actually bring new readers up to speed.
In fact, if I didn’t already know who Colton, Kyle, and Pomeline were I would be just as lost. The only two members of the Academy group that make much of an impact are Maps, who does fit in well with the more whimsical nature of the Lumberjanes group, and Olive, who spends the duration of this issue separated from the rest of the crew. I don’t doubt that Lumberjanes is a well-written, fun book, but so far this series feels both rushed and like too slow of a burn. Most of the issue revolves around the two groups searching a cabin for both supplies and clues to the disappearance of Professor MacPherson, so while the narrative avoids any exposition so as to move the plot along, an awful lot of nothing happens to pad out the time.
That’s not to say that the writing is bad through and through or that everybody is a blank slate; on the contrary, there are several nice, fun moments that made me smile or even laugh out loud. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but Maps is a great character, and seeing her interact with a bunch of adventurers allows her to really let loose and come up with some crazy ideas. It’s often sweet and always lighthearted, I just wish each group would have clearer personalities so I could laugh with them and not just at out of context lines.
Ultimately (and unfortunately), there may just be too many characters here for anybody to really make much of an impact. The size of the two groups isn’t the main issue, as we’ve all read stories that have managed to juggle dozens of characters while giving them depth and a purpose in the story, but the abilities of the writer in charge can make or break that. Chynna Clugston-Flores may be able to handle a team of a half dozen on a regular basis, but so far she hasn’t been able to capture the true charm of both groups: their individuality. The artwork from Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Maddi Gonzalez and Whitney Cogar suffers from that same uniformity, as the two locations presented here (a log cabin and a… nother log cabin) aren’t that interesting to look at, and the Academy kids even dress up in clothes that the Lumberjanes let them borrow. It’s visually fine, but like the writing there isn’t much there that’s memorable.
The B-plot, which is really the A-plot as it’s the entire reason the two groups came together, is much more intriguing. Olive and Jen wake up in a strange cabin after being taken by the admittedly creepy floating skulls at the end of the first issue. Given nothing more than some poofy dresses and instructions to change, they decide to acquiesce so they can at least explore the house and maybe get some answers. That leads to a revelation that took me by surprise and is intriguing, but I have to wonder how they can possibly spread this story out over four more issues.
But, again, maybe I’m just a grouch.
- You’re already a fan of Lumberjanes and Gotham Academy.
- Really, it’s harmless and worth a few laughs, but the charm wears off quickly.
Overall: After a fun opening chapter, I was hoping for that same spirit this time around. Instead, we get an installment that focuses mostly on a large group whose members don’t do much to distinguish themselves from one another, making what should have been fun and even silly come off as twee and even a little annoying. The lack of exposition in the first issue was a nice breath of fresh air; now, the lack of any sort of explanation as to who these kids are makes it incredibly difficult to get attached to any of them or care about their plight.