Manifest Destiny: Amphibia and Insecta by Dingess, Roberts and Gieni – A Book Review

This first volume of Image Comics’ Manifest Destiny absolutely blew me away and rocketed to the top of my favorite titles.  If you’re unfamiliar with the work, it follows Lewis and Clark’s expedition into the unknown.  They have been officially charged by President Jefferson to explore and map the region.  Unofficially, however, they are to locate and exterminate any threats to American citizens, both natural and supernatural alike.

In this second volume, author Chris Dingess traps the crew in the middle of the Mississippi River.  Their ship lodged against the top of a great underwater arch, much like the giant floral arch they encountered in the previous installment.  Clark leads some men ashore to explore while Lewis stays behind to figure out how to dislodge the ship.  Unfortunately they soon realize an enormous frog monstrosity hunts these waters, and it enjoys the taste of human flesh.

Furthermore, Clark and his men must battle gigantic mosquitoes that appreciate all the human body has to offer, and it’s more than just blood.

Dingess provides an incredibly satisfying solution to both problems, though the crew suffers greatly before an escape is made.  And though this plot may sound a bit silly, I assure you, it had me figuratively on the edge of my seat.  It’s been a while since a book had me in suspense as much as this title did, especially because Lewis and Clark’s own crew members are far more malicious than the creatures they endure.

Matthew Roberts provides beautiful art.  The entire story takes place in the wilds of America, and he draws Nature untamed perfectly.  Furthermore, when it’s time for over-sized frogs and huge mosquitoes to make their appearances, he draws them as absolute terrors.  Honestly, this is not an overt “horror” title, but there are some horrifying moments, to be sure.

And, just as Roberts knows how to draw our natural world, Owen Gieni always chooses the best colors.  I’ve said this about Gieni before, but how someone can make a title full of earth tones so vivid is beyond me.  I feel colorists are always unappreciated, and so I hope you’ll take a moment to recognize Gieni’s immense talent.

Manifest Destiny has it all.  It’s packed with action, suspense, terrifying monsters, organic dialogue, riveting plots and, as the last issue of this volume proves, some potent moments of hilarity.  By far, this is the most satisfying title I’m currently reading.

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