Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Chris Dingess
Artist: Matthew Roberts
Inkers: Tony Akins & Stefano Gaudiano
Colors: Owen Gieni
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Review by PeteR
The term Manifest Destiny is credited to an 1845 newspaper editor named John O’Sullivan. What Manifest Destiny means is; a rationalization for the “belief that the expansion of the US throughout the American continents was both justified and inevitable”. When you read the word “US”, that is code for Christian, white people, of European descent.
After the Louisiana Purchase, in 1084, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Captain Merriweather Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark to cross the unknown regions of the continent to the Pacific Ocean. There were a couple of purposes behind this expedition. One, according to President Jefferson was to find “the most direct and practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce.” The second and third parts were to establish U.S. sovereignty over the land before other pesky European countries tried to take control and to let the Native Americans know they were about to start sharing their land, whether they liked it or not. The fourth part of the overall mission was to scientifically study the flora and fauna of the various regions.
Manifest Destiny the comic by Chris Dingess and Matthew Roberts offer an additional factor to the Lewis and Clark’s mission. What if there had been a previous expedition and the sole survivor of the escapade returned, completely insane and with tales of monsters and demons lurking in the wild. It would be easy for President Jefferson to discount a lone madman but if he had returned with proof, like the skull of a huge cyclops, that changes things.
Lewis and Clark are not only meant to find out what horrible things are out in the wilderness, they are to find ways to defeat them. The occasional act of genocide is not completely out question. Whereas history claims that the expedition was comprised by a select cadre of U.S. Army volunteers, Manifest Destiny with its extraordinarily high body count, also includes a large number of convicts as part of the Corps of Discovery. The mixture of regular military having to serve with thieves, murderers and rapists does not create a homogenized, functioning unit.
Issue #30 of Manifest Destiny is the final chapter of the most recent story arc. The remains of the expedition hunker down for the winter and build a fort between two tribes of Native Americans. The first tribe is accepting of these “Americans”. The second tribe, having prior experience with Americans are not as cordial. As events seemingly quiet down, a mysterious fog begins to cover the entire valley of the fort, wreaking havoc on all caught in its grasp. Meanwhile, Shoshone Indian woman, Sacagawea, has gone into labor and is convinced everyone around her is trying to murder both herself and her baby.
Chris Dingess, author of Manifest Destiny is weaving an epic tale, blending historical facts with outrageous supernatural concepts. Every issue is a new viewpoint into what people will do to survive and how far they will contort their beliefs to justify their actions.
The artwork for Manifest Destiny, Matthew Roberts’ pencils and inking by Tony Akins & Stefano Gaudiano combine to construct a woodsy yet ominous environment. Sure, the grass and trees may look pretty at first but when they try to eat you, that changes one’s perspective. Owen Gieni does the coloring and Pat Brosseau the lettering for Manifest Destiny. Their skills add a great deal to the beauty and horrors the expedition encounter.
Why you should buy this book? I have been reading Manifest Destiny since it first came out. Each issue carries a milieu of dread with every hill top and valley crossed. At any moment members of the contingent could be eviscerated, eaten, possessed, poisoned, scalped or come down with dysentery. As a reader, you hope for the best for the characters of Manifest Destiny but you have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is even more horrible than imaginable. Manifest Destiny is a horror comic at its finest because there is just enough reality to make a familiar walk in the woods feel treacherous and menacing.
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