“Manifest Destiny” #6 wraps up the first story arc delivering Chris Dingess’ version of the adventures of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as Dingess and artist Matthew Roberts take a pause before the next issue. The letters page declares that the series will be absent in May, but still represented on the comic shelves by a collected edition. Basically, if you’ve missed out on this title to this point and made this issue your first, the creative team is saying, “Take a moment. Get caught up. We’ll wait for you.”
Meriwether Lewis continues to be the point of view character, guiding the story through his journal notes and his actions. The conclusion of the first arc settles the creeping zombie plants as Lewis and Clark’s crew utilize Greek fire to neutralize the threat. Their battle does not come without a price, as they lose a few of their crew in the process, but that’s to be expected with any horror story. Dingess keeps the suspense present in “Manifest Destiny” #6, where every character not named Sacagawea, Lewis or Clark is the equivalent of a red shirt on “Star Trek.” That doesn’t make the characters any less interesting, as Dingess infuses this cast with a variety of personalities and interactions.
With several pages consumed by dream sequence, “Manifest Destiny” #6 doesn’t seem as action-packed as previous issues, but it is every bit as much, if not moreso. The opening scene depicts a pair of plant-zombie rabbits having their heads smashed together by one of Lewis and Clark’s men. Lewis and Clark are supposed to be categorizing new discoveries and defending against threats to the United States, but categorization so frequently eludes them as the threats are so ferocious the pair are simply struggling to stay alive and sane. That further accentuates the mystery and uncertainty of it all. From the half-man, half-bison creatures of the early portion of this arc to the creeping zombie-plant that closes out this chapter, readers are just as uncertain as the characters. I’ve found myself, more than once, trying to relate the fantastical creatures and situations Dingess and Roberts are creating here, but falling short. That, to me, is part of the magic of this series.
Artist Matthew Roberts has performed masterfully throughout this series in creating distinct, recognizable souls in service to Lewis and Clark. The members of the United States Corps of Discovery, the frightening horrors they encounter and the scenery around them are all wonderfully conscribed to the pages of “Manifest Destiny” #6 by Roberts with sharp coloring from Owen Gieni. The colorist doesn’t make things too flashy, but does insert emotional cues throughout. Letterer Pat Brosseau’s work is to be commended. The choices he has made for the journal entries are spot on, complete with in process corrections from the pen of Meriwether Lewis.
I’m not the most devoted fan of history, but “Manifest Destiny” has me riveted and intrigued. I haven’t dug up any historical books on the subject yet, but I can see a point real soon where I’ll be inspired enough to do so. In couching the story in the historical and mixing in the horrific, Dingess and Roberts have created a series that is every bit as electrifying and innovative as “American Vampire.” This series is not dissimilar from “Proof,” another Image title that took concepts comic fans were familiar with and flipped it over for a different look. “Manifest Destiny” #6 would be an odd place to start, but given that a collection gathering up through this issue is upcoming, take heed and, at the very least seek that out. Categorize something new and defend your comic reading with a fun, twisted take on a historical adventure like no other.