September 8, 2010

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Xoc Numbers 1, 2, and 3

Written by Matt Dembicki
Illustrated by Matt Dembicki
Self-Published

It's really hard for me to get into a nature comic, so I was not 100% sure about Xoc. However, I took a quick peek at the insides and was impressed enough to give it a try.

I'm really glad I did, because Dembicki's ongoing comic about a great white shark's quest to cross the ocean is not only an intriguing one, it's also informative, and beautifully illustrated, to boot.

Xoc is another name for shark, and is most likely (as Dembicki explains), our source for the name of these incredible dangerous creatures. We meet our protagonist on the better side of an attack on some small mammals, and in short order, our shark is crossing the ocean and encountering everything from a crafty tortoise to killer whales to jellyfish.

Like a good nature documentary, our story informs us of the surroundings, either with narrative boxes or by brief snippets of dialog, primarily between the shark and the tortoise. We see the life of the sea from the perspective of a sea creature, and it works very well for the reader.

Perhaps the best example of this is when our shark meets up with the great garbage reef. I'd heard of it before, but Dembicki's portrayal is both well drawn and horrifying, all at the same time. There is quiet commentary on humanity here, but it's not preachy. Dembicki lets the facts stand for themselves. We are to appreciate nature, but that comes from the narrative organically, not with a sledgehammer.

I mentioned there is dialog, but those who aren't fond of talking animals should still check this comic out. The animals speak only in terms of how they might if they had speech. They are *not* anthropomorphized at all. These are not Disney sea creatures; they see life and death as Dembicki imagines they would. It helps to keep the comic flowing, and I thought it worked well.

My only "complaint" is that issue 3 (not pictured) ends on a cliffhanger, and I really want to know what happens next. Otherwise, this was a very solid mini-comic find that I'm quite pleased to own, and I definitely recommend it to others, especially if you like nature documentaries. Xoc is a well-drawn comic that will remind you fondly of Nature or other similar programs. Grab a copy for yourself--you'll be glad you did.

You can pick up a copy of Xoc at the Small Press Expo on September 11th and 12th!