Saturday, December 27, 2014

Digger (graphic novel)

Digger, Ursula Vernon, Sofawolf Press, Graphic Novel/Webcomic, 850 pages, November 15, 2013. 

Synopsis: Digger Is a story about a wombat.

More specifically, it is a story by author and artist Ursula Vernon about a particularly no-nonsense wombat who finds herself stuck on the wrong end of a one-way tunnel in a strange land where nonsense seems to be the specialty. Now, with the help of a talking statue of a god, an outcast hyena, a shadow-being of indeterminate origin, and an oracular slug she seeks to find out where she is and how to go about getting back to her Warren.

My thoughts: If you've not heard of Digger already, don't be daunted by the page count. This is due to it being a webcomic, but I promise it has a definite beginning and end. If you're like me, you'll wish there were another 850 pages once you've concluded it. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Digger is an epic, in essence. It details the adventure of the titular wombat "Digger-of-Unnecessarily-Convoluted-Tunnels", or Digger for short. Interestingly, Ursula Vernon began it with the intention of scrapping it after a few pages. She warned readers to not become attached, but few could help it, not even her. Digger was a charming character, despite her gruff and practical attitude. She was snarky and knew how to turn a phrase. Vernon's strength in characters reveals itself quickly. Digger, Ed, Grim-Eyes, Bone-Mother, and many other adventurers endear themselves to the reader, and I was extremely sad to say farewell.

In 2012, Digger won a Hugo Award for the Best Graphic Story, which independent stories such as this webcomic hardly win. There is good reason for this choice, though. With such a large scope, and writing as she went, Vernon did a magnificent job of tying themes together and wrapping up the entire story well. Such themes include divine status, logic, sense & order, and traditions.

The graphic style that Vernon draws is beautiful in its own way. Inspired by other dramatic, monochrome artists such as Jeff Smith (Bone), she prefers sketch-like drawings, but in an earthy way. This works very well, and I loved the artwork. She rendered her Characters well, and I loved their expressions.

These points aside, Vernon still had the challenge of making this world at least somewhat relatable. It's acceptable to write a world filled with nonsense, but that gets out of hand quickly and loses appeal. Digger was the shining light of reason for us. She was in the same position we were: stranded in a foreign land where many strange things occur. She must make sense of things, as wombats are fond of doing, and thus arranges the world in a way we can understand. As time goes on, the story makes complete sense after all. What makes it doubly as effective is that all characters residing there don't regard it as nonsense. They already understand, it's natural to them. This helps to endear them to readers, and sets up for communicating the great epic that takes place.

There is reason behind my review being vague on plot details, and it is that you should come across everything for the first time when reading Digger. It's safe for all ages, but I would say that older readers (16+) would have a better grasp on what's happening. If you enjoy graphic novels and/or heroic stories, please make time to read this. You will be glad you did, in my opinion. There is the free webcomic online, and also print editions of the episodes and an omnibus.

My rating: 5 stars

Read Digger online
Buy the Omnibus

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

On the recent absence

Please forgive me for not updating Heavenward Reviews for the past few weeks. The end of the semester demanded my attention, and plans for getting home as well. Now it's the holidays, so this coming Friday I should have a new review up. If you're reading this, thank you for sticking with me.