Manifest Destiny is one of my favorite comic books running at the moment. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, Lewis and Clark are still exploring the American wilderness west of St. Louis, but in this alternate history, they are not merely mapping out the landscape and marking rivers, they are also analyzing any potential preternatural threats to the American pioneer. Guess what? There are many, many strange plants and animals ready to kill them at every opportunity.
There is also a larger plot at play from one volume to the next. They keeping coming across arches, much like the famed St. Louis Arch. However, these arches are made of natural materials and developed organically … or did they? Whatever the case may be, they tend to serve as the epicenter of unusual, and deadly, occurrences.
In this fifth volume, Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea, and their band of soldiers and felons have founded a fort in order to survive the winter. Soon, though, a strange fog rolls in, and this fog brings some of their past–and most horrific–threats with it.
This is a high-concept book, but such industrious titles tend to burn out by the time they reach their twenty-fifth issue. I’m happy to tell you that Manifest Destiny shows no signs of slowing down. Dingess has found the perfect balance of horror, adventure, and characterization to keep this title engaging and interesting. Honestly, I thought this particular volume would end up boring me. After all, a fog doesn’t sound terribly exciting, does it? It became readily apparent that the fog wasn’t the real threat–the men’s fear, bias, and paranoia is the real threat, and those things burst free during their encounter with the fog.
Matthew Roberts also keeps this title driving forward. His art appears historically accurate in terms of clothing, tools, weapons, boats, forts, and things like that. He is also a master of anatomy and perspective. There appears to be no animal, plant, or combination thereof that he cannot render perfectly. But, even with that all being said, his most important quality is that he knows how to keep one panel moving into the next, and then into the next, and then into the next. He realizes the importance of “sequence” in sequential art.
There are only a few titles currently being published that I consider “must-read.” Manifest Destiny is one of them. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
(Did you enjoy this review? Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)