Manifest Destiny. Image Comics. Issue 2. Matthew Roberts.Manifest Destiny

Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts, Owen Gieni, and Pat Brousseau
Image Comics

Until reading this, I never gave Lewis and Clark much thought. There was that IMAX movie about their expedition a few years ago but it seemed like the whole thing was pretty dry. Just two guys walking slowly across the country with a Native American woman who must have been bored as hell guiding them. First of all, even though this series is a fantasy, a lot of logical pieces have fallen into place. OF COURSE they would have had a huge entourage accompanying them. OF COURSE they would have traveled by boat across the Mississippi. OF COURSE they would have been practically helpless without the help of several people along the way. And OF COURSE they would have been completely naive about what they would encounter and the ultimate fallout from their tour.

In retrospect, the reality of Lewis and Clark’s adventure was unsettling. They were agents dispatched by the government to find out what exactly was in the Louisiana Purchase. Prior to the land deal, pioneers had already been migrating West, but once they left the borders of the United States they became citizens of a different country. They were influenced by the people they came into contact with, joined other cultures, and sometimes were never heard from again. What happened to those people? What really happened on that trip outside of what Meriwether Lewis and and William Clark included in their white-washed diaries?Manifest Destiny. Image Comics. Issue 1. Matthew Roberts.

Manifest Destiny answers that question: Monsters. Monsters are what was beyond the Mississippi and why the government sent such a ragtag team of people to explore it. We’re talking zombies, giant poisonous plants, minotaur-buffalos, and sights unseen. They and their quickly dwindling crew are single-handedly identifying and battling the creatures of the new frontier. The group is vulnerable and drastically underprepared for the mission. The only person standing between them and complete failure is their guide, Sacagawea.

There are things to love and things to hate about the depiction of Sacagawea. She is a fierce, powerful woman who repeatedly rescues the men from eminent death. She isn’t overly sexualized, she is helping them voluntarily, and she constantly challenges the racist presumptions of the Americans.Manifest Destiny. Image Comics. Sacagawea. Matthew Roberts.Unfortunately, her character is rather one-dimensional. The expedition group features several fully fleshed out male characters while Sacagawea is obscured in the background, literally out in the woods, until it’s time to kick some monster ass. That said, there are more issues to come and there may be plans to address this flaw.Manifest Destiny. Image Comics. Sacagawea. Matthew Roberts.One other woman figures prominently: Mrs. Boniface. She is introduced when the men arrive at (flee to) Fort La Charrette. She is depicted as a level-headed, calm leader working to protect and reassure the other survivors. It is a satisfyingly positive portrayal.

The artwork utilizes browns, light blues, grey, and green, evoking the prairie aesthetic. Characters’ faces are drawn with incredible nuance, making the scenes even more striking. The covers are magnetic. The writing is clever. This is an inventive horror story, almost completely awesome, with detailed monsters you’ve never seen before. A definite add to your pull list.