(Image Comics, 2014)
Written by Chris Dingess
Artwork by Matthew Roberts
Color Artwork by Owen Gieni
Chris Dingess and Matthew Roberts have taken on the daunting task of consistently raising the bar set by the previous issue of their incredibly imaginative series and it looks like they have done it yet again as they wrap up the current arc and speed headlong into the next exciting chapter. Issue six of Manifest Destiny is written at full speed; the narrative is full of high energy action, the first half of the tale is actually told by Lewis while he and Clark are being pursued by a flora infected grizzly bear. Dingess has injected these characters with lots of personality and detailed them with individuality, subtle nuances and unique quirks to the degree that you begin to feel that this must be what the real Lewis and Clark were like. The chemistry these two early explorers share has a true buddy sensibility to it that makes them extremely likable, it also adds an air of timelessness that brings with it a sense of relevance; although the events took place many years ago, the kind of camaraderie at the heart of the story remains endlessly relatable. The dialogue is sharp; the voices are individual and unique to the characters, while maintaining a degree of authenticity. Dingess possesses a true gift for character development and while I love his work on this series, I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us down the line.
This issue begins with our heroic explorers running for their lives from a flora-zombie bear. The hulking beast lumbers in pursuit for some time before Lewis tosses a tube of Greek Fire at behemoth engulfing it in flames there ending the chase. However, the old adage “out of the frying pan and into the fire” has never been truer as just then the ground beneath their feet begins to rumble and give way. A giant plant monster reminiscent of Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors bursts through the earth, its massive tentacle-like appendages slithering like snakes wrapping around Lewis and Clark and pulling the helpless heroes inside the horticultural horror where they fall into a dream-filled slumber, Lewis’ is filled with images of lusty women writhing in ecstasy, while Clark is tormented by scenes of violence and murder. The giant plant monster seems to be able to communicate and has a dialogue with Lewis, the result of which is not exactly good news for our plucky explorers. However all is not lost as Sacajawea has plans of her own that do not include the deaths of Lewis and Clark at the hands, or mouth as it were, of this leafy leviathan. The group is finally reunited, although a bit worse for wear as some of them have been infected by the flora virus along the way and have to be dealt with in a most unpleasant fashion but, after that is taken care of and the remaining members of the party are thoroughly scrubbed, the boats are boarded and the trek once more commences.
This issue shows the effects of the flora virus on a diverse section of woodland creatures and Matthew Roberts does a fantastic job of rendering these poor misfortunate animals in all their twisted, misshapen glory. Roberts has an almost whimsical look to his character design that carries over to his interpretation of the forest animals. It is a kind of fantasy or ethereal sense that works extremely well with this story. I really like the world he has created overall, his stylized approach to anatomy is rooted is realism but is just exaggerated enough to give his characters a dynamic appearance that fits perfectly into the fantastic world in which this tale is set. Roberts’ imagery spills from the pages, the panels seem to float atop larger images that serve as framing devices at times, creating some really organic page compositions that work flawlessly with the subject matter. Owen Gieni’s palette of vivid colors adds a dimension of vibrancy to the lush verdant setting of the issue; the seemingly limitless shades of green it took to bring this narrative to life boggles the mind and delights the eye.
Manifest Destiny is one of those books that I look forward to every single month because I know it is going to entertain, enthrall and leave me wanting more. It is the kind of comic book that transcends and defies labels. It appeals to sci-fi fans, adventure fans as well as the overall comic book connoisseur, there is something in this book that will grab you and bring you back, trust me. If you haven’t been reading it give it a try, its good stuff. (4.75/5)
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.