Even after eighteen issues this comic continues to impress. Chris Dingess’ over the top imaginative writing and Matthew Roberts gorgeous art is just a combination that cannot be stopped. Manifest Destiny is hands down the best adventure comic on the stands right now, and definitely one of the most creative, compelling, and heartbreaking stories that I’ve read in comics in awhile. Granted, I’ve been reading this series as the trades come out, so any issues with pacing I don’t get, because I’m not waiting for the monthlies, which in my opinion is the best way to read this comic. And I may be a sucker for alternate history adventures, but damn, these guys consistently kill it every issue. In this volume the mission continues upriver after Lewis and Clark’s encounters with a viral fungus and a man-eating frog. In a way each time the crew encounters an arch there is bound to be trouble and then some sort of boss fight. This time around when the crew sees an arch in the distant woods I expected the same. In all honesty the formula that Dingess has laid out would have satisfied me. I thoroughly enjoy watching Lewis and Clark face the untold horrors of the American West, and watching as Roberts’ gruesome monsters dismantle the poor soldiers and criminals that have been brought along for the ride.
This time it was different, the story takes a left turn as they finally encounter creatures that can speak, and speak English. These small blue bird-bears (they really remind me of Owlbears from D&D) are the first non-human species the crew has encountered that have actually tried to interact with them without trying to eat them first. As it turns out they did try to eat them, and Charbonneau (Sacagawea’s husband) has been captured and the crew have to kill a giant flying monster that preys on the Fezron in order to get Charbonneau back. Wow, alright, so they never get a rest and with every arch there is a big monster battle.
In between all of this we see the crew becoming ever more mutinous and Lewis and Clark themselves becoming more and more savage. Dingess really digs deep in these more human moments and gives us insight little by little into what makes these men tick. These human elements are what keep this fantastical comic grounded, making the reader think once again about who these men are and what they’re really doing. The entire series is a very moral tale, giving us a kind of Lord Of The Flies-esque experiment, where these men are tested beyond their limits and what comes out of situations like that. We see good men do terrible things, and evil men redeem themselves, out in the wild anything is possible. This especially is seen at the end of the volume, where the crew prove once again to be human and capable of unspeakable cruelty, even our heroes Lewis and Clark, in the name of humanity and the United States achieve new lows this time around. No one is innocent and the events of this arc will definitely shape the tone of the book in the coming issues.
While Volume 3 may not reach the same action-packed heights of the original six issues, its still an incredibly fun read and as I’ve stated before very imaginative. The magic of exploration is a little clouded, and in this arc the mission to “clear all hostiles” from the land seems to take precedent, making for a more violent and dark couple of issues. With this in mind the tone of this volume is definitely more moody than before. No one is immune from the pressures and tensions that this deadly mission has put upon them. All the while Matthew Roberts’ gorgeous landscapes still astound with a huge helping hand from Owen Gieni’s tasteful color palette, giving the reader some relief in imagery from the darker tensions of the narrative. This comic keeps getting better, maybe next arc it will pick up a bit more and the crew will finally get rolling again, but until then let’s hope there’s a lot more monster killing action along the way.
Manifest Destiny Vol. 3 Writer: Chris Dingess Artist: Matthew Roberts Colorist: Owen Gieni Publisher: Image/Skybound Price: Digital $11.99/ Print $14.99 Release Date: 2/3/16 Format: TPB; Print/Digital