The latest arc of Manifest Destiny opens up with a brand new cast of characters. Despite some striking similarities to Lewis and Clark’s crew, this is a military expedition that took place three years prior. Writer Matt Dingess leaves us with more questions than answers in this excellent return of the best weird historical fiction comic out right now. Plagued by relentless monster attacks and a harsh winter descending upon them, the crew lead by Major Flewelling decides to pack it in for the winter. This memoir, penned by Captain Helm recounts a horrific tale. Helm is our Lewis in this issue, who appears to have been collecting samples until their ship was destroyed and they were forced inland. Each entry in his journal is worse than the last, retelling tales of lost men and brutal monsters and as winter passes things only worsen. When one of the soldiers commits suicide, the Major decides to take drastic actions - cannibalism. The camp is immediately divided between those who indulge and those who refuse. Meanwhile Captain Helm has been hearing voices and when he retreats to the forest to presumably take his own life, a vision of a Spanish Conquistador emerges before him.
Flash forward to 1804 and we are finally reunited with familiar faces. It’s good to see Lewis and Clark again, until you remember that in the last issue they committed a brutal genocide on a somewhat peaceful race of creatures. Up until that point it was easy to forget that their orders were to eliminate any threats to American Westward Expansion. The expedition comes across an opening and the ruins of the cabin that the 1801 crew had built for their winter stay. Lewis and Clark enter the cabin and in the fire place find a humanoid skull with one horn and one eye socket. This is the same type of skull that Jefferson himself had in his office back in the beginning of this comic. Clark looks at Lewis and says, “This is the spot”.
Ok, so what is going on? Dingess and Roberts don’t waste any time, and immediately the story has picked back up just as fast as it left off. It’s obvious that the 1801 expedition was the predecessor to Lewis and Clark, but they failed. All of the challenges that they failed to overcome, we see Lewis and Clark’s crew successfully achieving. Could it be that they were just the prototype and Lewis and Clark weren’t the first explorers chosen by Jefferson to complete this journey? Thomas Jefferson is beginning to be painted in a pretty dark light, but then again so are Lewis and Clark. We’ve seen glimpses of their past before as well, with both of them doing unspeakable things during the French and Indian War, things that still haunt them. Hopefully Dingess gives them a chance to redeem themselves, because the slaughtering of the Fezron left me with a bad taste in my mouth. It always hurts when you see the dark side of your heroes, but this journey was never going to be fun or easy, and that was just a reminder of that.
Dingess is still writing an incredibly entertaining yarn. This arc starts off strong, and despite being called “Sasquatch”, the slow build up of why it’s called that is perfect. The premise of this book has always intrigued me, and continues to do so. The “secret history” aspect of it is so fun, especially the idea that Jefferson had sent explorers out before Lewis and Clark but they failed so history forgot them, it’s brilliant. Do Lewis and Clark know that they weren’t the first? Are they being kept in the dark? There are so many questions that need answered! When winter falls upon the Discovery Corps how will they react, or will they too succumb to the fate that claimed their predecessors?
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Manifest Destiny #19 Writer: Chris Dingess Artist: Matt Roberts Publisher: Image/Skybound Entertainment Price: Print: $3.99 Release Date: 5/18/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital