Manifest Destiny Issue #8manifest destiny, Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts, Owen Gieni,
Chris Dingess (W)
Matthew Roberts & Owen Gieni (A)
Image Comics

When you save someone’s life, they owe you. There is no satisfaction in rescuing another person if there isn’t a reward. At least, that’s how the crew of Lewis & Clark see the situation. With this issue emerges an echoing theme of the inherent cost of being saved.

When fleeing the monster sized frog, Miss Lebrun’s dress becomes saturated from the river and the weight almost drowns her, until the seemingly chivalrous Corporal Hardy lifts her out of the water. Due to this rescue, she comes to see him as a protective presence, and insists on remaining close to him as the group begins scouting the nearby woods. Hardy takes the opportunity to attack and then rape her, until a giant bee kills him with his stinger (insert obvious Freudian parallel here).

Backing up the start of this issue, when the crew dashes out of the river to get away from the frog, Clark casually walks away (even taking a moment to adjust his hat). The Ranidea lashes his tongue out to snatch him back, but Sacagawea stabs the end off in the nick of time. Clark shows no gratitude, and she reminds him “Two times I have saved you.” He says nothing in response, and she does not explain why she’s keeping count. This will surely be explained later in the series.

Soon afterwards this tally is raised to three, as Clark initially heeds her advice to remain near the shore. The entire crew obviously trusts her judgement more than Lewis or Clark, and after realizing this Clark disregards her advice and orders the men into the woods to assess any additional threats.

Sacagawea’s instruction for the group to remain near the shore is based on the idea that remaining in familiar territory is safer than moving into uncharted areas. Her exact quote is “Here you know what devils there are. Not in the woods.” But Clark stubbornly rejects her logic, even as he understands the truth of it. This is reminiscent of the entire voyage itself: the crew originated in the safe, buffered Eastern region of the U.S. but were dispatched to explore the continent west of the Mississippi River. After founding the country, the youthful United States was of course curious about what lied beyond the established states. And they could not be satisfied with the land that had already been settled.  Like a kid trick-or-treating in a new neighborhood, they needed more. It did not matter if there were valid arguments for remaining within the boundaries that were in place. It was believed that they were supposed to expand into the western territories by divine right. Hence the title of this series itself.

The crew are sure to take issue with Clark’s decision to send them packing if that bee is any hint of what they’re about to find. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

What about the art, you ask? Artists Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni depict the frontier landscape as it was. The prairie and the river are as wild and picturesque as you could hope for. Even the majority of the “monsters” are simply mammoth versions of native flora and fauna. Bees, frogs, ladybugs, and flowers become terrifying when their sizes are multiplied hundreds of times. With these size variations, further alterations to the plants and animals are unnecessary. They are drawn realistically, in a world of yellow/green grasses, moss covered everything, and trees so thick you can’t see anything in the woods beyond their shadows.

Roberts and Gieni also blow me away with the attention to detail on the facial features of the crew. Each personality is communicated through subtle facial mannerisms and physical posturing. Smirks, glares, and glossed over stares tell you everything that the text doesn’t. The artwork is precise and beautiful. Not to be missed.