Graphic Anthology Review: ‘Wild Ocean’ edited by Matt Dembicki

Wild Ocean: Sharks, Whales, Rays, and Other Endangered Sea CreaturesWild Ocean: Sharks, Whales, Rays, and Other Endangered Sea Creatures by Matt Dembicki

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Review from a digital copy.

This anthology offers a quick overview of twelve different oceanic species, each with a different scope of interactions with humans and within the ocean itself. Plots range from serious—capturing illegal fishermen who are doing it to survive—to lighthearted—a kid playing with a blue whale toy while his dad goes to a conference. Overall, the stories end happily, but the long-term prognosis for our oceans is grim, and that isn’t left out. Given that the point is to raise awareness, there’s no reason why it should be.

The stories take full advantage of the visual-text combination, though sometimes in different ways: the bit about butterfly fish had perhaps the most gorgeous visuals, while the sea turtle and giant clam (and a few other) sections took the opportunity to include scientific names and anatomical diagrams. At times I felt the composition got busy, but these are very short stories, so it’s not difficult to go back and pick things apart. Also, I imagine with bigger pages than what I was reading on screen, it would be easier to untangle the composition.

Each illustrated story is prefaced with a brief note about the species, including the significance of the plot and the larger issues it faces with global warming. While the illustrated parts themselves are easy reads that a precocious elementary student should have no trouble with, the brief notes are at a higher level, although still not extremely in-depth. Given how important it is to be aware as early as possible, I see no reason not to share at least the illustrated stories with younger audiences. They’re pretty, and it’s not hard to get across the notion of “if you like this, don’t leave your trash everywhere” or whatever.

Of course, this isn’t intended for people who are already well-informed about marine biology. I never studied it formally, and there were a few small details I hadn’t known, but the appeal for me was more so the breadth of topics covered. And it’s very easy to share the enthusiasm because the stories are attractively presented and short enough for the modern attention span. They even touch on robotics inspired by the manta ray, so engineers and aspiring engineers will get a little something, too.

Overall, ‘Wild Ocean’ is a great way to wade into the shallows of marine conservancy, while enjoying some truly gorgeous illustrations.

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