A slick and fun read, “Manifest Destiny” #1 takes some amusing liberties with actual events and real people. American history just got a whole lot weirder as a group of settlers uncover monsters in the vast frontier. With a mix of scares and laughs, this is an enjoyable trip to the past that even history buffs will like.
WRITTEN BY: Chris Dingess
ART BY: Matthew Roberts
PUBLISHER: Image Comics/Skybound
RELEASE: Nov. 13, 2013
In the 1800s, Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark set out to explore the uncharted American frontier. The Manifest Destiny calls for these two explorers to expand democracy across the vast horizon. The adventure takes a turn for the worst as Clark and Lewis have to deal with unruly shipmates like Jensen. President Jefferson made a deal with certain criminals to help Clark and Lewis on their dangerous voyage. If he becomes a member of the ship’s crew, Jensen will be pardoned for his crimes and have a new place to live as part of the deal. But when the entire crew arrives in the new frontier, what creatures will they discover hiding in the darkness?
Writer Chris Dingess focuses on the witty bromance between Lewis and Clark. Hot-headed and tough, Clark is willing to pull the trigger first, especially if it means saving his best friend from danger. Lewis is more pensive but tight-lipped when it comes to taking action. Notice how Lewis argues with Clark in his private quarters. Lewis doesn’t want to threaten Clark’s authority in front of the crew, especially since they are convicts. Because they have such respect for each other, they’re not afraid to question each other’s judgment calls.
Jensen is an interesting character because Dingess has him cross the line between anti-hero and antagonist. Though he made a deal with President Jefferson, Jensen realizes he is being setup to take a big fall. Because he doesn’t have any family, no one will care if Jensen ends up dead on this journey. Jensen was only recruited because no one would miss him if he was suddenly gone. More of a conspiracy nut, Jensen thinks everyone is purposely out to get rid of him.
Artist Matthew Roberts pays close attention to the look and style of the 1800s. Because Clark is more of a soldier, Roberts has him wearing his Lieutenant’s blue uniform. With the ship’s crew being full of criminals, Roberts has them wearing plain clothes and their long sleeves rolled up. An important detail, notice how Lewis is the only one in the crew who doesn’t carry a firearm or knife. Lewis is there for scientific research, not because he wants to look for a fight.
When Roberts illustrates Lewis and Clark, they are always side by side. In his close-ups, Lewis always has this look of awe when he discovers something new about their uncharted territory. In wide shots, Roberts depicts a grassy and flourishing frontier beaming with sunlight. Trouble is brewing as Roberts paints a particular flower in the shape of a skull.
An enjoyable start, “Manifest Destiny” #1 delivers two engaging protagonists that readers will root for. I want to see what monsters show up during this exploration into the American frontier.
Reviewed by – Jorge Solis