Review – Manifest Destiny #21 (Image Comics)

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Publisher: Image Comics (Skybound imprint)
Story: Chris Dingess
Art: Matthew Roberts, Tony Akins, Stefano Gaudiano, Owen Gieni
Release Date: 20th July 2016

Manifest Destiny’s “Sasquatch” arc continues to defy the established structure of the series so far, and do so with truly impressive results.

Once again, the previous expedition provides some interesting parallels to the current mission, with the familiar tensions running high and the same level bickering and in-fighting aplenty – albeit with just a tad more cannibalism. The extra experience of Lewis and Clark’s expedition is about the only thing that’s working in their favour, and while the fate of Captain Helm’s crew is being used mainly as a narrative device here, the strength of the Chris Dingess’ writing, particularly his characterisation, is making me desperately want to find out more and more about these poor, doomed soldiers.

Much like the conclusion of the previous arc, there’s also a strong feeling of actual sympathy being generated towards the animals being hunted by the crew here.  Watching these intimidating yet docile creatures gradually becoming more and more aggressive and violent as they are brutally hunted really underscores some of the inherent ambiguity that has been present in this series since the beginning.  Yes, exploring new frontiers is all well and good, but one can’t help but wonder if the world might not be far better off if Lewis, Clark and the rest of their crew had simply opted to stay at home.

Visually, Manifest Destiny continues to churn out some of the most beautiful artwork on the shelves today, with rich, detailed pages and jaw-dropping character designs.  Matthew Roberts’ pencils are filled with expression, even during the quieter, ‘talky’ sections, and his rendering of the “Cysquatches” is by turns moving and terrifying.  Once again, it’s a genuine compliment to inkers Tony Akins and Stefano Gaudiano to say that it’s not clear where one man’s work begins and another’s ends, such is the uniformity of their style, and Owen Gieni keeps things murky and tense with his bleak, washed-out colour palette.

While it’s certainly not a jumping-on point by any means, this latest arc provides a fresh perspective on Lewis and Clark’s ongoing expedition by showcasing the differences and similarities between their mission and the previous, ill-fated exploration which took place several years beforehand.  Yes, the characters we’ve become deeply invested with over the previous twenty-odd issues are being pushed to the background temporarily, which can be a little frustrating at times, but there’s definitely something poignant about seeing how their own actions mirror those of the original crew’s.

Once again, it’s clear that Dingess and Roberts deserve the highest of praise for creating one of the most gripping adventure horror series on the shelves today.  Yes, this is a slower issue than most, but it still packs a significant storyline punch, and as always, this is a series which is about the journey rather than the destination, in more ways than one.

Rating: 4/5.

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