Fabien Cousteau, grandson of Jacques, leads two fictive young explorers to a close encounter with a great white.
Though the urge to lecture wins out (“As we know,” a crew member drones, “sharks are being fished at a rate that’s faster than they can reproduce”), this graphic outing does end up carrying a hefty cargo of information about shark behavior, their role in the food chain, and continuing threats to their existence. Climaxed by a nerve-wracking demonstration of the tricky process of shark “tagging,” the marine expedition is also punctuated by glimpses of dolphins, whales, albatrosses, a deep-sea oarfish, and other sea creatures, not to mention the recovery of a huge trove of sunken treasure and undersea observations in no fewer than three submersibles: a clear Plexiglass shell, one disguised as a big seal, and one shaped like a shark. Considering that the latter two draw brief but violent attacks it’s a bit of a hard sell to claim that sharks are “very peaceful and likable,” but the wide-eyed students—calm, brown-skinned Bela and her timorous white friend Marcus—definitely come away, as do readers, understanding that humans are far more dangerous to sharks than vice versa. The lengthy blocks of dialogue and background commentary really squeeze the researchers and their finny subjects in St. Pierre’s brightly colored panels, but along with plainly making an effort to minimize talking heads and static standing groups, he manages to depict a diverse array of fish and other sea life.
Nearly founders under its informational load, but shark lovers will bite. (Graphic informational fiction. 9-11)