Learning About Friendship With Robot Butlers In Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass

by James Ferguson

The first ever Lumberjanes original graphic novel begins with a familiar adventure for the Roanokes. They set out into the woods as they have dozens of times before. This time it’s to get the “Mappy-Go-Lucky” badge in orienteering. This requires them to navigate through the forest to find a series of markers along the way. Of course, this somehow ends with a group of robot butlers because that can only happen to these girls.

The hijinks take a little while to get going. Since this is a graphic novel instead of the regular monthly comic, there’s more room to explore the characters and their relationships. In this case, writer Lilah Sturges delves into the budding romance between Mal and Molly. They’re young and still feeling things out in terms of what they want from their relationship. They’re not entirely comfortable with the attention it’s getting either. This is such a relatable idea and it’s handled with great care.
You can see the concern on the faces of both Mal and Molly. They clearly care a lot for one another, but they’re still figuring out their place in the world. Artist Polterink captures this uneasy feeling perfectly. You fully understand the range of emotions both girls are going through, including confusion, frustration, and good old-fashioned puppy love.

Polterink uses a greyscale approach to Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass. This creates a more personal story, contrasting with the usual crazy antics the Roanokes get into. I felt pulled closer into every aspect of the book, like I needed to sift through each individual panel. That’s not to say the monthly comic doesn’t pull me in. It’s just a different feeling for a different type of story.
Occasionally there are some green highlights which are used sparingly, but incredibly well. This mostly revolves around the compass, which ends up teleporting a member of the group away one-by-one. This effect adds to the supernatural nature of the Lumberjanes camp as literally anything can happen there. It was also a clue that something crazy was about to happen.

Speaking of something crazy, I mentioned the robot butlers, right? They become a fun foil for the Roanokes, but their true nature is not revealed for a little while. I like how each one of the girls interacts with the robots differently. None of them are particularly shocked at seeing them considering all the other monsters and creatures they’ve encountered during their time in the camp. My favorite is, unsurprisingly, Ripley who immediately goes along with everything with such excitement.
To solidify the foreign nature of these mechanical servants, letterer Jim Campbell uses a blocky, robotic font. This makes them appear a little menacing at first and downright silly later when they start to lose face.

Lumberjanes is one of the most fun comics on the stands today so it’s great that the characters got some more time in the spotlight in this original graphic novel. There’s a solid message about friendship weaved throughout the story, but you’re not hit over the head with it. Instead, it comes through organically, leaving a smile on your face. If anything, it may have you looking up an old friend you haven’t talked to in a bit just to check in.
Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass from Boom! Studios is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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