The desire to explore the unknown is fundamental and, on the up side, is the drive behind humanity’s scientific curiosity. Unfortunately the process of exploration is riddled with opportunity to express some our uglier traits: xenophobia, irresponsibility and hubris to name a few. In the spirit of creators like Gene Roddenberry and Robert Kirkman, Chris Dingess (co-producer and writer of Being Human) employees an exotic setting and the fear of the unknown to show us how good (or bad) we can be. Manifest Destity is a work of historical fiction based on the travels of Lewis and Clark. In this reimagining, President Jefferson wants the expedition to do more than just find the best path west, catalog some natural resources and hangout with the chick from the dollar coin. He secretly wants the monsters cleared out so the wagons can get rolling. Yep, I said monsters. Monsters that the French apparently bumped into while out in the wilds of proto-America. This is the point where everything could have gone wrong with this concept, but it thankfully it doesn’t. Dingess takes his times to establish the spectrum of personalities in the party and Matthew Roberts renders beautiful landscapes with a mastery of scope and scale to draw us into the large expanses ahead. Then we’re treated to our first look at these monsters and… they’re not at all what I expected to see. I love a good surprise and I’m counting the days till issue two.
I suspect that my only problem with this book is Robert’s intention and may turn out to be a real plus. He draws Lewis and Clark with very similar facial structures. They’re so similar that in some panels it can be tough to differentiate them. I think this is a risky move in the portrayal of what seem to be the main characters and it took me out of the story a bit. Interestingly, the conscripted convict laborers all look very distinctive from each other as well as the other characters we’ve been introduced to so far. Did Roberts just have more fun drawing the grungier folks or does this imply that we’ll see more individuality from the unlikely versus likely heroes?
Manifest Destiny is off to a great start. The premise is interesting and the artwork is crisp and well framed. I hope Dingess and company can live up to the concept they’ve developed and use monsters and the Wild West to tell a very human tale. Done right, this could be an epic series and I look forward to where they take us.
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