“The turtle surveys its surroundings. It sees a fellow loggerhead, entangled and crippled, wade by. It sees fish gasping their last breath, while others struggle with their deformities. Xoc is right; It is a death trap” — Narrator, Xoc: The Journey of a Great White, n. pag.
|Matt Dembicki (author), Evan Keeling (colors), Ed Brisson (letters), Josh Elliot (book design)
|Fiction, Animal Comic
|Environmental Themes and Issues
|Animals in Danger, Commercial Fishing, Ecotourism, Educational Nature Facts, Habitat Destruction, Ocean Conservation, Overfishing, Plastics, Poaching, Pollution, Shark Finning
|Xoc: A female great white shark
|Protagonist’s Level of Environmental Agency
|Level 1: Limited To No Environmental Agency
XOC: The Journey of a Great White is an educational graphic novel about great white sharks and the environmental issues that threaten their survival. The comic follows Xoc (pronounced “Shock”), a pregnant female shark, as she travels from California’s Farallon Islands to give birth in Hawaii. Along the way, she befriends an loggerhead turtle that has been maimed by a boat. The nameless turtle decides to accompany her on her 2,300 mile journey. As they travel, Xoc and the sea turtle encounter many marine creatures, including threatening orcas and squid. They also discover many signs of environmental degradation caused by humans. For example, Xoc swims past abandoned boats and barrels leaching toxic waste into the ocean.
During one particularly harrowing scene, Xoc and the turtle stumbles across the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating mass of plastics and other discarded items. They discover that the patch is teeming with jellyfish and other creatures that feed on the plastic. Horrified, Xoc says, “It is… poison. It is all… poison” (n. pag.). As they swim through the patch, they discover turtles snared in plastic and dying or deformed fish.
The comic also depicts the horrors of shark finning. This controversial practice involves cutting the fins off sharks and discarding the often still-living creatures back into the ocean, where they invariably suffocate or get killed by other animals. A series of panels filled with lurid red blood underscore the cruelty of this harvest, while the humans’ boat hovers menacingly at the surface above them. Xoc asks, “Are they… so powerful… that they can kill… so many?” The turtle persuades her to flee before she becomes another de-finned victim.
Xoc: The Journey of a Great White conveys factual information about great white sharks, their behavior, and diet. It also provides an unflinching—though not overly gruesome—portrayal of environmental issues like shark finning and marine pollution. As a result, the comic can inspire conversations about ocean conservation and the relationships between humans and the sea. It also challenges popular misconceptions about sharks as dangerous predators of humans by depicting Xoc harmlessly interacting with divers and swimmers.
The comic includes an author’s note that urges readers to educate themselves about the environmental issues portrayed within the narrative. Author Matt Dembicki writes, “Whether we like it or not, humans are the primary caretakers of this planet, but we have fallen short on our duties to care for our oceans and our denizens…. I’m optimistic that we can change things.” He also encourages readers to become involved in environmental activism and help develop solutions.
The backmatter also includes a “Did You Know?” section with facts about great white sharks, a bibliography, and links to additional resources about conservation.
“Interview with Matt Dembicki, creator of Xoc!” https://comicattack.net/mattdembickiinterview/.