Digger is one of those comics where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It hits a sweet spot between its serious and non-serious content, neither one jarring or contradicting the other but working together to produce something I think is pretty fantastic.
When preparation to do a review I generally re-read the comic from its start before beginning. This is always enjoyable but I was struck with Digger as to how much fun it was to read – I really couldn’t put it down even though I knew what was going happen next.
The characters and comic concept
Digger, or more correctly Digger-of-Unnecessarily-Convoluted-Tunnels, is a young adult wombat who through some rather unfortunate events has become lost and found herself far from home and in a place absolutely teeming with magic, prophesies, fates and gods.
Now Digger is a serious young lady, dedicated to her species calling of underground engineering, and like most wombats, has no time for the mystical. So she is not best pleased and is eager to find a way home as quickly as possible.
But as much as she tries not to get involved with local affairs, particularly the magical ones, Digger is a wombat with a big heart and of generally upstanding character. So try as she might she can’t avoid being pulled into helping out with investigating some very disturbing local events.
The character of Digger is well defined; you get a very good sense of her personality and values as the story progresses. This is also a story of a wombat well of out of her comfort zone, in a situation she dislikes but is still trying to do the right thing without entangling herself any more than she needs to as really all she wants to do is go home. There is some good character development on the back of this.
The secondary cast is kept pretty tight, introduced slowly and each one has a nicely developed personality though to slightly varying depths. There are about four stand-out secondary characters that could be main characters in their own right.
The pacing of Digger is pretty good, it has a defined story arc and sticks to it. There is one small section that feels perhaps a little extraneous but at the same time I think the story would be too short without it. Really I enjoyed reading this so much I’d have happily read something twice as long but the author was undoubtedly doing the right thing by sticking to the script as it were.
The tone of Digger as mentioned above sits somewhere between serious and non-serious. There are some fundamentally non-serious bits, verging on silly at times, but it’s telling a serious story all the same. I’m not a fan of comparing authors but several times I was struck by a similarity to the late, great Terry Pratchett who perfected this style of fantasy writing but then perhaps he was just in my mind with his recent passing.
The story of Digger is relatively simple structurally speaking. It’s a reasonably straight forward mystery adventure but it has a strong concept at its core and well-developed universe so the whole thing holds together really well.
There are some sub-plots that end rather abruptly or are simply left unresolved but it’s that kind of story. Nothing is ever resolved to absolutely everyones satisfaction, rather everyone does the best they can and continues on.
The dialogue of Digger is what really ties it together and is generally excellent. The characters are voiced well, there’s plenty of humour and warmth conveyed in it.
The black and white art is a little rough around the edges, bit like Digger, but is full of character and very likeable. The style shift subtly at a few points, perhaps most noticeably after the first few pages, but is generally pretty consistent.
Author, publishing and timeline
Digger is written by Ursula Vernon who works full time as an artist, comic writer and author (she publishes under a pen-name T. Kingfisher).
In 2012 Digger won the Best Graphic Story category at The Hugo Awards.
You can purchase Digger in print on Amazon (there are links on the comic website if you click the shop link) or they are also for sale at SofaWolf (accessible via the links on the left side of the main page).