Written by Chris Dingess
Art by Matthew Roberts, Owen Gieni
Published by Image Comics
Release Date: August 20, 2014

The fictional reinterpretation of Lewis and Clark’s historical expedition into the great unknown of the Americas continues this week in Manifest Destiny #9. After encountering a giant frog monster on the river from which their vessel docked, the crew have been abruptly divided. Lewis and crew are stranded aboard the ship struggle to try and destroy the green monster that is preventing them from rejoining the others, while Lewis and his crew remain at the beach struggling to keep up with gathering specimens and maintaining their survival.

This issue is unabashedly gruesome and fun. The surrealism and magnitude of such a fantasy lends itself well to the comic medium. Rather than be told in an cute and charming demeanor of fantasy adventure, Manifest Destiny takes itself incredibly seriously. Writer Chris Dingess establishes a very strict and formal setting through the use of Lewis’s introspective narration. With Lewis being the scientist of the pair, his narration provides an empirical sense of knowledge that we welcome to trust and suspend our disbelief, regardless of the outlandish premise of the story.

While other adventure stories take a dry and embellishing take at times when it comes to dialogue, Dingess keeps it steadfast in it’s approach and keeps the story moving. Humor is offered, but in careful and precise doses. What’s impressive for me in this story is that inspite of being in a land of mystery, strange animals, and no explanation for anything they encounter, Dingess provides small little payoffs to reward your reading. When Clark discovers that a despicable crew member has attempted to dishonor a woman, there is no long mulling or boring interrogation. There is swift and immediate vindication. These and other small payoffs in Manifest Destiny is assuredly one of the many strengths to this series.

What allows Dingess to write so concisely is largely due to the clever use of visual storytelling by Matthew Roberts. The panels are intelligently placed and properly convey the detail that not only draws attention to the panel, but allows the reader to understand what is going on in them. Roberts does an amazing job of getting the reader consumed by his visuals through creating interesting focal points on the page, smart page layouts, and incredible splash pages that could make you salivate or gasp depending on your fervent for levianthan-sized killer frogs or giant, blood-covered mosquitos.

Colorist Owen Gieni does a phenomenal job in this issue. His ability and mastery of lighting and textures is quite apparent in this issue, and is an integral part to the overall enjoyment of this issue. Not only are you able to notice when things are slick, rough, or smooth, but it’s also worth noting that his ability to effectively display physical states of blush and bruising which are absolutely sublime.

Manifest Destiny has just enough clever, just enough adventure, and just enough terror for any comic book reader to enjoy. We devour with our eyes the fantasy of the story, and hold our breath in captivation when it horrifies us. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

The Verdict: 9.0/10



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