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Dembicki, Matt – Xoc: The Journey of a Great White



Xoc: The Journey of a Great White

Maybe you were one of the people who bought this delightful series when it was coming out in mini comic form, or maybe you stopped halfway through like me (for no reason other than the fact that I constantly lose track of series because I’m always buried under mini comics in this “job”). Even if you did get the whole series, I have two excellent reasons for you to pick this collected edition up: 1. hardcover fancy pants edition and 2. full color. This was a series that always screamed out for color, as the creatures Matt was drawing were sometimes some of the most colorful creatures on the planet, and Oni Press fixed that beautifully with this edition. But I suppose some of you haven’t read any of this series, and you maybe want to know what I’m babbling about already. OK! This is the story of Xoc, a great white shark who travels roughly 2,300 miles from California to Hawaii, and the adventures the shark gets into along the way. It picks up a turtle traveling companion more or less by accident, hunts various creatures to stay fed, sees more than one horror of the industrialized world, examines a shark tank with two people in it, gets two lampreys stuck to itself without any reasonable method to remove them, and gets attacked a few times by killer whales. Matt did his homework in a big way, as I learned plenty both through the comic itself and the footnotes after the fact (did you know that great white sharks could lose more than 1,000 teeth during its lifetime? Terrifying in so many ways). There’s a strong environmental message here, so if you hate such things… well, get your head out of your ass, it’s not like we have all the time in the world to fix this. And if you hate environmental stuff so much that you think it’s OK to catch sharks, cut off their fins and then dump them back into the water where they will drown because they have no damned fins, I’d rather not ever have a conversation with you, thanks all the same. Anyway! This is a gorgeous book and a compelling adventure story, and Matt stays true to life in acknowledging that most nature stories like this do not have happy endings. It’s still a fantastic story, and something that should be read by anybody with a pulse and/or conscience. $20


Dembicki, Matt – Xoc #2


Xoc #2

OK fine, it’s another great issue of Xoc, I can’t believe how well the man can draw all kinds of different ocean life, blah blah blah.  The important thing this time around is Matt takes time in his introduction to explain the name Xoc (ancient Mayan word for “demon fish”, so most likely the name for shark) and even reprints an original poster from 1569 (the first known (?) display of a dead shark), which has a very interesting interpretation of what a shark actually looks like.  In other words, I learned something before the comic even started.  Kudos!  Once the comic gets underway things heat up considerably: Xoc gets attacked by a group of killer whales, discovers that there’s an old sea turtle following him around (they’re theoretically just going to the same place, and what safer company to be in than a great white shark?), observes a fight to the death between an octopus and a whale (turns out the octopus has developed a few decent defensive moves over the centuries), feeds on a recent whale carcass (saving some energy by not having to kill something), and gets latched onto by a couple of lampreys.  Seriously, I am constantly impressed by the range Matt shows in depicting these underwater beasts.  Quite a few comic artists never break out of their comfort zones (whatever it is that they like to draw, usually people and regular life situations), but unless Matt is a deep sea diver there must be a lot of research involved in putting out this comic, and he pulls it off flawlessly.  I’d say he should pitch this series to Disney for a movie but I don’t think the world is ready for a great white shark “hero”.  Oh well, the comics world gets this all to itself instead.  If you have any interest in the 75% of the world with no people in it, there’s no reason in the world to miss this. $2

Dembicki, Matt – Xoc #1



Xoc #1

OK, you can see the cover.  Are you one of the tiny amount of people in the world who aren’t intrigued, or do you immediately want to know more?  It made me read it as soon as it got here, and seeing as  how most things go into my “random review grab pile” as soon as they get here, that’s no small feat.  This was also nominated for an Ignatz award, and if it didn’t win it either got robbed or somebody else made an even better mini comic, which is a hard thing to imagine.  This is the story, more or less, of Xoc, a great white shark.  Matt takes great care with his facts here, noting the sharks migrating when they notice a change in the magnetic pull of the Earth and the position of the sun.  Granted, he could be making those up and I’d never know, but based on the level of detail in the rest of the book I feel secure saying he got it right.  The story opens with a group of sea lions arguing (they’re the only group in the comic to talk, oddly) about how they’re going to get more food and whether or not they should move off their current patch of land.  A brash young sea lion declares that they need to move now after seeing what he thinks are fish, and leaps into the ocean.  He makes it to another small patch of land, but is only saved from being eaten by the other sea lions that follow his lead and attract the attention of Xoc.  The blood from his first kill brings other sharks, and a feeding frenzy commences.  While the survivors huddle together and plot their next move, Xoc and the other sharks feel the pull and move out of the area, coming across some deep sea creatures and other things that generally end up in the bottom of the ocean.  This is a genuinely magnificent comic, something that is rarer than you probably think.  Granted, I feel like a bit of a dork for even using the word “magnificent”, but it sums it up perfectly.  The art is perfect, with all kinds of little details and some serious realism, and the writing is slowly starting to tell the story of Xoc.  Heck, I was nervous watching the sea lions swim to the other bit of land, and that’s saying a lot from somebody as jaded as me.  It’s well worth checking out, here’s hoping that Matt has an epic in him with this story.  $2