Books one and two of Lumberjanes introduced us to the characters and setting of the awesome, women-run, girl-positive comics: the girls of Roanoke cabin at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types are Lumberjanes, being trained in the badass arts. Book three -- collecting comics from a kind of victory lap of the title after its amazing success -- turned the series' reins over to some of the best writers and illustrators in comics-dom for a series of vignettes. Now, with Out of Time, the fourth book, the original creative team are back at the helm, telling a long-form story that illuminates the Lumberjane backstory and introduces one of the best, scariest monsters of cryptozoologica.

As I understand it, no one expected Lumberjanes to do as well as it did, and as a result, the original eight-issue arc was retrofitted for a longer, more complex run. The creative team — writers Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters, artist Brooke Allen, and their collaborators — rose magnificently to the challenge, through the simple and devastatingly effective tactic of taking all the throwaway gags and easter eggs in the first eight issues and taking them all seriously, retrofitting an explanation and a backstory for each element, turning a charming little tale into a monster epic that has ample room for growth and continuation for the foreseeable future.

It helps that that they created such a large and likable stable of characters to play with: the five girls of Roanoke cabin, their counselor Jen, scoutmaster Rosie; the spear-carriers in the boys' camp down the way, the old lady who can turn into a bear, and so on. Though many of these characters only appeared fleetingly in those first eight issues, they were each distinct and interesting, and the creators are fleshing them out as the series progresses.

"Out of Time" is the fourth book, and it tells a single story that does more to set up those backstories than any of the other arcs to date: we learn how Rosie and the bear lady relate to each other, what Rosie's own history is, and get some clues as to the monsters that haunt the woods by the camp. One of those monsters, a Cthulhoid centipede-elephant called the grootslang, ranks up there in the pantheon of comics' coolest beasts, the kind of thing I'd have instantly integrated into a D&D campaign back when I was DMing regularly.

Lumberjanes started strong, and went from strength to strength. With this installment, it's an easy bet that there'll be no slowing for a long time to come.

Lumberjanes 4: Out of Time [Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke Allen et al/Boom!]