Lumberjanes: Beyond Bayleaf #1 is a little spooky, a little funny, and a little wistful. It’s like a fun game of capture-the-flag mixed with your favorite camp ghost story and ending with that sad feeling you get that the end of summer is coming soon. Luckily, guest writer Faith Erin Hicks (Demonology 101), guest artist Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (Steven Universe, hence the large number of star eyes perhaps), and main series colorist temper this sadness with hope and friendship in the trademark Lumberjanes way with an energetic story focusing on Ripley running after the Ghost Pony while the other Lumberjanes run into a creepy giantess/witch being in the forest that makes the Collector from Guardians of the Galaxy look like an old guy with an antique store and a bad wig. It’s a great introduction to the main cast and setting for new readers while having character explorations and in-jokes galore for long time fans while being a fun fantasy adventure story in general.
The first thing that struck me in Lumberjanes: Beyond Bayleaf #1 (which is an amazing title considering the supernatural underpinnings of the plot) was Faith Erin Hicks’ handle on the voices and senses of humor for the various Lumberjanes. She could have made them interchangeable, substituting names of feminist icons for profanity quip machines, but Hicks makes Mal’s wit snarky and dry, Jen an overprotective, total science nerd, and Ripley a ball of happy energy. She does an excellent job making Jo group leader as she suspects Sola before anyone else with Valero-O’Connell drawing a panel of her sleeping with literally one eye open. Later, Jo verbally and physically confronts Sola with an angry glare and a nifty parkour move as Valero-O’Connell uses smaller panels to make action scenes quicker and more fluid.
And the best part of all, Hicks and Valero-O’Connell give Ripley, the youngest of the Lumberjanes, a true arc as she realizes that friendship is more important than having a magical pet when she smashes the gem containing the spirits of the ghost ponies in the issue’s conclusion as she is reunited with the friends she left early in the issue. Maarta Laiho ups the wow factor with eerie, glowing whites for the ghost ponies to contrast with her usual greens and skin tone palette.
Rosemary Valero O’Connell does a nice job keeping the Lumberjanes recognizable with her faces almost a perfect match for Brooke Allen’s, but she dials down the cutesiness except for the occasional Pendleton Ward/Rebecca Sugar star eyes when Jen gets all worked up about astronomy and stargazing. The lack of cuteness allows Sola to be an actual frightening villain as Valero O’Connell zooms on her extremely sharp teeth when Ripley breaks the gem and lets reader realize that this isn’t a misunderstood, eccentric old hag, but a evil person, who strikes at the heart of what makes these characters great and uses mostly psychological manipulation, not physical means to get her way. (She does have a killer pack of not so cute dogs to help her in her mission.)
Lumberjanes: Beyond Bayleaf #1 is probably the darkest Lumberjanes yarn yet, but is still a great all ages comic with light humor and some great friendship and personhood affirming moments. (“Lady, we are no one’s collection” is totally the PG version of “We are not things.” from Mad Max: Fury Road.) Kudos to Faith Erin Hicks and Rosemary Valero O’Connell for keeping everyone in character while going in a uniquely fantastical and psychologically rich direction for this one-shot.
Lumberjanes: Beyond Bayleaf #1
Written by Faith Erin Hicks
Art by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Colors by Maarta Laiho
Published by BOOM! Studios
Logan is a nerdy, bisexual ginger, who recently graduated university with a degree in English Literature and Overanalyzing Comic Books. He loves comics, music (especially New Wave and BritPop), film (especially Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright), sports (college football and NBA), TV, mythology, and poetry. Joss Whedon is his master, Kitty Pryde is his favorite superhero, and his current favorite comic is The Wicked + the Divine.