"Manifest Destiny #29" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics / Skybound
Written by Chris Dingess
Illustrated by Matthew Roberts
Colored by Owen Gieni
2017, 32 Pages, $2.99
Comic released on June 14th, 2017
You'd think with all the horrors the Corps of Discovery has been through, they'd catch a break every so often. That is definitely not the case here. Their quiet place to settle down has been covered in a mysterious fog that has everyone seeing their biggest fears come to life. Lewis is the only one seemingly immune to these effects thanks to a remedy provided by a neighboring tribe. Now the camp is in flames, the soldiers are running around practically killing each other, and everyone is terrified. Things have been better.
You can learn a lot about someone based on what their deep-seated fears are. Seeing what each character is deathly afraid of provides a unique look into their lives and how they see the world. Even with all these folks have encountered and the monsters they've faced, there are still other things out there that scare them even more. Some are haunted by dead family members. Others see the devil himself. The dog sees...well, that's interesting.
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In this issue, artist Matthew Roberts proves that he can draw just about anything. You want a hideous skeletal deer monster? You got it. A nun with no face? Done. The detail that goes into these creations is second to none. The horror of the creatures is matched by the intricate facial expressions of Lewis, Clark and their team. Several of them are paralyzed by fear, their eyes becoming small dots as they stare out in shock. Meanwhile, Lewis is all determination and strength as he powers through this for the sake of his men.
The fog hangs around the camp like an ever-present reminder of their doom. It's not something they can just swat away. It's literally inside them, curling up into their noses. This, coupled with the billowing flames, gives the book a claustrophobic feel. No matter which way they turn, there is no way out.
Owen Gieni's colors reinforce that feeling, making the flames overpowering to everything around them. The fog is suffocating as it casts a haze around everything it touches. It's almost like a ghost swirling around the camp. When the two are close to one another, it creates this strange, eerie glow.
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Manifest Destiny works not only as an awesome alternate history where Lewis and Clark travel across America to eliminate monsters for the settlers, it provides a compelling look at the time and how people interacted back then. The men have a particular reaction to Mrs. Boniface because she's a woman and to York because he's an African-American. These actions are inexcusable in today's society (unless you're the President, apparently), but they were par for the course back then. It doesn't make them any less wrong and the way they're depicted cements that feeling. This is especially true with York in this issue, as he proves how heroic he is only to be treated like a criminal by the soldiers.
Manifest Destiny delivers bucket loads of monsters matched with equal parts character development and incredible artwork. This issue breaks the characters down to their most base fears, nearly destroying them in the process. They've been through Hell and fought all kinds of beasts, big and small, but what might ultimately destroy them is their own minds. This issue builds up to a startling climax that will have you clamoring for the next chapter.