Review – Manifest Destiny #20 (Image Comics)


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Publisher: Image Comics (Skybound imprint)
Story: Chris Dingess
Art: Matthew Roberts, Tony Akins, Stefano Gaudiano, Owen Gieni
Release Date: 15th June 2016

As Manifest Destiny’s latest “Sasquatch” arc rolls into its second issue, we get to find out a little more about just how Lewis and Clark’s mission came about in the first place by digging deeper and deeper into Helm’s memoirs.

While the change in narrative style – flicking back and forth between the present-day mission and Helm’s original, ill-fated expedition – was initially a little jarring, writer Chris Dingess manages to settle into a nice rhythm here, even managing to travel further back in time as the ghost of Arturo Maldonado regales Helm with the story of his own doomed mission.   It’s a bit like Manifest-ception at times, but in a good way, y’know?

It’s definitely a bold decision to shake up the established approach at this point in the story, but while I’ve certainly enjoyed being in the trenches with Clark, Lewis and their remaining crew over the first eighteen issues of this series, I’ll fully admit that it’s nice to step back for a moment and get a little added perspective on their situation. It also doesn’t hurt that Dingess has crafted such an utterly gripping situation for Helm and his crew as they find themselves turning to barbaric cannibalism in lieu of any kind of sustainable food source.

The effect of this is threefold; firstly, it charges the ‘flashback’ sequences with a sense of urgency and drama; secondly, it provides a glimmer of optimism about Lewis and Clark’s own expedition due to the fact that hey, in spite of how bad things seem to be, they haven’t quite started eating each other yet;  and thirdly, perhaps contradicting the second point, it also serves as a fairly ominous portent that if they continue down their current path, cannibalism may not necessarily be off the menu (pun intended).

All of this characterisation and drama is framed around the rather more immediate one-eyed “Squatch” threat, brought to life in typically stunning fashion by the artistic quartet of Matthew Roberts, Tony Akins, Stefano Gaudiano and Owen Gieni. Roberts lays the groundwork with his bold, expressive pencils while Akins and Gaudiano work in perfect synergy to flesh things out with their inking.  Gieni provides the cherry on the sundae with his murky colours – although he is given another opportunity to tackle something with a little more brightness to it during the Arturo-based flashbacks, an opportunity he embraces with gusto.

While it originally made its mark as a high-concept, monster-centric reimaging of Lewis and Clark’s iconic voyage of discovery, Manifest Destiny has gradually evolved into something far more; an ambitious, gripping, character-based historical fantasy series featuring a group of mismatched, desperate men and women pressing on through a seemingly never-ending spiral of pain, loss and suffering. It’s also one of the best, most consistent ongoing comics on the shelves today, in case you weren’t already aware.

Oh, and as a side note, Manifest Destiny continues to provide hands-down the absolute best final pages of any comic on sale today. Their cliffhangers and shocking reveals continually hit the reader completely out of leftfield, leaving our jaws hanging open as we frantically count down the days until the next issue.  And with that said, this issue may actually have one of the best – and most impactful – so far.  Seriously, just read it and see.

Rating: 4.5/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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