By: Chris Dingess (writer), Matthew Roberts (art), Owen Gieni (colors) and Pat Brosseau (letters)

The Story: Beset by centaur-like creatures, Lewis and Clark take refuge in a fort that conceals yet another threat.

Review (with SPOILERS): This is quickly becoming a favorite series.  We haven’t covered it yet here on WCBR, so some extra set-up is probably in order.

The premise of the series is an alternate take on the Lewis and Clark expedition that was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to explore and catalog the Louisiana Purchase from 1804 to 1806.  It’s hard for us to image what the world was like back then.  Now we have Google Maps based on up-to-date imaging from orbiting satellites.  Back then, the United States had purchased this swath of land from France with only the most general knowledge of what the land looked like.  The true story of Lewis and Clark is just amazing.  If you’re a history person, go read Undaunted Courage.  It’s a wonderful read and window into a very different time.

Anyway, where Manifest Destiny breaks from history is that it pretends that the mysterious western side of North America was also teeming with unknown life forms – like monsters.  Lewis and Clark were there to scout those monsters and determine how big of a threat they were to the ~20 year old United States.

So far, the series has seen Lewis and Clark on their expedition, dealing with minor problems with their men due to drunkenness and what-not.  But last issue they ran into trouble with a group of monsters: A type of centaur/minotaur creature than has the lower body and head of a bison and the trunk of a man.  These carnivorous creatures are BAD NEWS and they chase our protagonists into an old fort….which brings us to this issue.

This issue is attractive because the action doesn’t stop, nor is it predictable.  Instead of doing the boring thing where Lewis & Clark would have to spend 5 issues dealing with these minotaur-things and then move onto the next problem, the minotaurs barely appear in this issue except to remind us that they are still “out there”.  I’m sure they’ll be fully dealt with in a future issue, but here they’re merely a device to force Lewis & Clark to stay inside the fort….which is important because they are not alone within the fort.

As soon as Lewis & Clark are within the fort – SAFETY!!! – another threat is revealed in the form of shambling, rotting men who come lurching out of the houses toward them.  At first, I though, “Oh no…..zombies.  Why did such a clever series resort to using zombies in issue #3?”   But, I needn’t have worried because these aren’t zombies at all.  And they aren’t those sort of alt-zombie “infected” either.  The explanation they have is clever and makes sense.  I LOVE a series that is liberal with the ideas.  Rather than having Story Arc #1 be about the minotaurs and Story Arc #2 be about these not-zombies, these creators are just flinging the ideas around in the least precious way possible.  As a reader, it makes me feel like they aren’t about to run out of story (i.e. we won’t get to issue #10 and the story is tapped out).

And the art is great. The characters themselves are slightly cartoony, which I love because when a 1800s solider is running from a zombie-like creature, I want to be able to see a look of bug-eyed terror on his face.  But, the level of detail that is worked into all the monsters is really impressive.  The coloring is great too.  It’s a lovely book.

Conclusion: This comic really has it all.  The ideas, dialog and art are all top-shelf stuff.  I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying it.

Grade: A-

-Dean Stell