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

Grade

Conclusion


7 Responses

  1. Well, I suppose I’ll be someone challenging your imagination, as I tried the first issue and it did not do much for me. Now, I’m from Québec and I have close to zero knowledge of American history (Canadian history, sure, but nothing much from the ole U.S. of A). Perhaps, in my ignorance of who Clark and Lewis are, I have come into the first issue with nothing that could really make me enjoy this.

    I’ll admit the art was really good, though, but the characters did not do much for me.

    • dfstell says:

      Ah….interesting. I know exactly what you mean. I work with a decent number of Canadians and sometimes they’ll drop some tidbit of knowledge about Canadian history and I’m like, “Whaaaaa?????”

      It would be like a Canadian story about Henry Hudson or John Franklin.

      • Well, because I’m trying to be more open-minded, I actually went out and bought issue #2 and #3 at my LCS. Since this book is seemingly the new Jesus or something in some review circles, I thought there might be something I’m not seeing in the book.

        It seems that you might not have problems with your imagination after all, as the second and third issues were much more to my liking. More monsters, a greater exploration of the characters, more action and the art was just great. I might have jumped the gun on this thing a bit too soon after all.

        The other series I’m giving another chance to right now is Pretty Deadly, with the first issue not impressing me that much in the same ways that this series did initially. I suppose I’ll see for myself if I might be a bit premature in my judgment.

        • dfstell says:

          My only concern for the series is how long will it be interesting if it is just one monster after another. I mean…..that would get old, right? On the other hand, the series isn’t asking me to remember anything complicated, so maybe monster-of-the-month will work out fine?

          I really loathed Pretty Deadly. It was so bad that I couldn’t finish it even though I was on an airplane. I think I chose to watch that crappy Superman movie instead. I thought it was tedious and pretentious and didn’t get to the point. The art was nice, but I’ve seen lovely Emma Rios art before and she’ll draw something else that I like before too long. I guess what I’m saying is that I need to hear a LOT more positive about that series before I give it a second chance. :) I think that one benefited in the reviewer-sphere because the creators are both lovely, engaging people who everyone wants to succeed.

          • Just read the two issues of Pretty Deadly that I hadn’t read yet. In the immortal words that came straight ou of issue #3: ” I wanna know what’s going on!”

            The rhythm is broken, the context is confusing, the characters are undefined, the conflict is mysterious, the timeline nebulous and the story doesn’t make one tint of sense considering it jumps around too much. The art is immensely beautiful, though, which does help. However, I now know that I will avoid this series.

            As for the Manifest Destiny formula, I think it’s a little bit too early to foresee where it might go with its general themes and the direction it might take. So far, it’s good, so let us enjoy that a book like this one can do that.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Finally!! Thank you for reviewing this series. Was hoping you guys would soon, it really surprised me and is now one of my favorite titles.

    • dfstell says:

      Glad you like it. I enjoy it too. I’ve been really impressed with the quality of titles coming from Skybound when the creators are previously “unknown”. We’ve gotten this and Witch Doctor (which is outstanding) so far. Kirkman has an eye for talent.

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