Comic Review: Manifest Destiny Volume 5

Once again, I fell behind on a series I really liked.  This time around, it’s Manifest Destiny, the Image Comics series about what supposedly really went on during the famous Lewis & Clark expedition.  They weren’t exploring the West!  They were exterminating monsters!

That may come back to haunt them in the fifth volume, subtitled Mnemophobia & Chronophobia.

So far, the Corps of Discovery has found a number of odd creatures, some hostile, others potentially not  but it doesn’t matter because the Corps will exterminate them anyway.  Captains Lewis and Clark’s expedition may have initially been composed of convicted felons and soldiers without families, but along the way, they’ve picked up a few more, including a group of mostly women from a largely destroyed French settlement, and the great hunter Sacajawea (and her incredibly useless French husband).  The group has faced off against plant-based zombies, beings that were part man and part buffalo, a giant man-eating frog, large insects, almost friendly bird people, and angry one-eyed cyclopses who had a good grudge going against humans before the Corps even got there.

But in Volume 5, the Corps is setting down in a fort for the winter before pushing on when the weather warms up.  The giant mystery arches that usually point to something dangerous and evil just materializing don’t seem to be around.  And therein lies the problem:  there is one, but it’s invisible.  That leads to what may be the most interesting threat the Corps has faced yet:  a fog that causes anyone who inhales it to see whatever it is they fear most.  The only one immune to this appears to be Meriwether Lewis, the more scientifically-minded of the two expedition leaders.  Everyone else (including, in one humorous moment, Clark’s dog) sees something that isn’t there, and that’s when the bullets start flying.  Can Lewis do what he can to stop the chaos before it costs the expedition everything, including Sacajawea’s soon-to-be-coming-along baby?

The plot moves forward here in nice ways.  Writer Chris Dingess uses this volume to expand some of the background characters a bit, most notably Clark’s slave York, the only black man on the expedition.  The nature of the attack allows Dingess to show what truly frightens the different members of the group while Matthew Roberts’ artwork shows a lot of these threats coming together, particularly the plant zombies infecting all the others at various points in the expedition’s shared hallucinations.  Plus, more ominous talk about Lewis and Clark having to do some kind of vague sacrifice with Sacajawea that they only really hint at with each other.  I do have volume six, so hopefully I find out more what that means soon.

8.5 out of 10 murderous mentors.

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