By: Chris Dingess (writer), Matthew Roberts (art), Owen Gieni (colors) and Pat Brosseau (letters)
The Story: The resolution of the Plant Zombie storyline.
Review (with SPOILERS): A lot happened in this issue. We got a good and exciting dose of Lewis & Clark (and men) fighting Plant Zombie Animals. That was exciting and gave the art team a chance to stretch their legs a good bit.
Then the issue went totally sideways with this revelation that the Plant Zombies were being caused by some sort of underground Sarlacc-like creature. I have to admit that this wasn’t something I saw coming at all. I’ve consumed a lot of monster-fiction in my life and it takes quite something for a storyteller to throw me a complete curveball like this. That alone isn’t enough to make the story wonderful or great – I’ll always contend that execution is more important to storytelling that a mere idea – but if you can be semi-original, more power to you. I don’t mean to totally discount ideas, it’s just that there aren’t that many ideas that are actually all that new and novel. But, this was at least “new” to me, so bravo!
And then what the creators DO with the idea is kinda clever. Often stories with a plant-like lifeform fall into this pattern where the plant is “only trying to procreate and survive”. You know what I mean, the plant has no agenda and somehow that makes it scarier because it is so alien to us that we can’t even communicate with it or reason with it…..it will just continue inexorably until it has all of our blood. The slant that the creators take in this issue is that the Sarlacc-thing is intelligent, aware and definitely has an agenda. It sounds almost as if it is an alien from another world as it says it is “one of many that have come here”. Hot damn! THAT is interesting. All through this series, it has just seemed as if Lewis and Clark were discovering a “wilder” Wild West. You know….kinda like those stories that elves and dwarfs and hobbits used to walk the Earth, except in this case, we were seeing minotaurs and Plant Zombies. I thought it was just a story of how the frontier was even wilder than we once thought. Instead, we seem to have a bone fide alien invasion and THAT is pretty nifty. It should also help with the storytelling as the series can be about more than L&C just cruising from one encounter with one strange creature to another.
The only thing that is a little lacking from the story right now is Sacagewa. I mean, I get that she is this super-awesome Native American Ninja Warrior-type, but I’d like a little more fleshing out of her character. I’m sure we’ll be learning all about her in the issues to come, but I would like to know a little more right now. It’s all well and good to have things to look forward to in the story, but she has been lurking in this state of semi-development for a storybeat too long.
The art is great and a big part of the reason why this issue/series is so effective. It is perched in that same blend of cartooning and realism that artists like Sean Murphy and Matteo Scalera are exploiting so fabulously. It’s a style that I love for its ability to convey both action and emotion, while still being close enough to realism to handle aggressive and dark subject matter. Roberts also really knows how to put a page together and has an impressive visual imagination. The whole sequence when L&C are in the belly of the Sarlacc and go from having euphoric visions of having sex with nubile women, to those women sprouting fangs (as the Sarlacc digests them) is pretty amazing.
Conclusion: A typically strong issue of Manifest Destiny adds what might be a compelling over-arching story of alien-invasion at the turn of the 19th Century.