Review by Jamie McNeil
Donny Digits is a national hero, a “fixingest” young lad pretty good at mending things with just about nothing and anything to hand. Once he mended a runaway train with two fairy cakes and some spare bedsprings! While the nation applauds Donny’s skills he carefully keeps his home life a secret but the nefarious V.V. Morgenstern has discovered the family’s location. The secrets she would reveal may be dangerous for Donny, his parents, and especially his brother Dylan.
Donny Digits: Heroes! Heists! Hotdogs! consists of two parts, some of which have previously been serialised in both The Guardian’s weekend supplement and The DFC (The David Fickling Comic) before it became that publisher’s weekly comic The Phoenix. Chapter one introduces us to Donny and his quirky relatives complete with idiosyncrasies that remind you of real people, yet is simultaneously a homage to characters who populated the pages of British comics in its heyday. These aren’t the lead characters themselves, but the mums, dads, and siblings that interact with them and subsequently add pizzazz. The second chapter continues to develop that, Phoenix introducing a new scenario revolving around what Donny’s mum does for a living.
Anyone not familiar with Phoenix’s art really should take a look at his work. He’s an artist always adapting and experimenting with his style, and the artwork dazzles from the first pages. Phoenix utilises his experience as a talented letterer to immerse readers in the detailed, blaring bustling activity of a crowded London. The cast’s movements are fluid while the backdrops introduce new information that work to disarm the reader at the same time.
Donny Digits parodies both the classic British comic formats and celebrity culture, though the latter is far more subtle. Phoenix cultivates a fun sense of the ridiculous, Donny seemingly inspired by the 1980s TV series MacGyver where the hero only needed a Swiss army knife, a pack of bubblegum, and a pair of bloomers to make a hot air balloon. An engaging story shot through with smart dialogue, excellent action, funny self-deprecation, and fresh ingenious problems to solve, this is a book for all ages that embodies the fun traditions characterising the heyday of British comics.