Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Genre-ally Speaking: Manifest Destiny, Vol. 1

Title: Manifest Destiny
Author: Matthew Roberts, Owen Gieni, & Chris Dingess
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: May 27th, 2014
Read: May 2014
Where It Came From: eARC from publisher via NetGalley*
Genre: Historical-supernatural-graphic-novel
Rating: 3.5 Sad Dead Herons

The Quick and Dirty:

Lewis and Clark lead an exploration of the United States’ new territory at the behest of President Jefferson, and encounter all sorts of supernatural monsters and other entities. Also, Sacagawea kicks some major ass.

The Wordy Version:

Lewis and Clark are on a mission from Jefferson to explore and document the Louisiana Purchase. At least, that’s the public face of the mission—Jefferson has actually tasked the two with leading the expedition to destroy the monsters inhabiting the interior of the continent and make way for westward expansion. L and C are naturally a little skeptical about this less-public aspect of the assignment, but carry on as their president has ordered. They've got a bunch of military men in the party, supplemented with freed criminals—expendable manpower for what horrors might be ahead. Their first stop is La Charette, the westernmost bastion of civilization.

It soon becomes clear that Prez Tommy J is not, in fact, losing his marbles, when they are attacked by a bison/minotaur/centaur creature while investigating a structure that looks mysteriously like the plant version of the St. Louis arch. Things go downhill from there—more murderous bison creatures, a naked lady with scary green eyes jumping off a cliff but leaving no body behind, an abandoned fort, moss zombies… They make it to La Charette and eventually find some of the village’s survivors. The original plan was to hook up with an Indian girl at the fort (wonder who that could be?), but they’re forced to make plans to leave without her. Said plans are derailed by various malevolent flora and fauna, and the awaited Indian girl swoops in to save their asses. More than once.

Lewis is a kind of happy-go-lucky-ish, scholarly type of individual, while Clark seems to be the harder, less forgiving military man. Their bromance could get pretty epic. Other prominent characters include a particularly slimy convict named Jensen, who suspects the real reason the criminals were brought along on the trip and has no qualms about the measures he may have to take to escape. Sacagawea is the strong, silent (and pregnant) type, and her husband/baby-daddy Toussaint Charbonneau seems a little creepy, especially when we find out he’s being paid by L and C for delivering her to them, with more money to come when the baby is born…

I didn’t have especially strong feelings about the art in general, but there were some really cool full-page panels. It’s actually a pretty gruesome graphic novel at times (bison creature dissection, anyone?), and the slime ball Jensen says some pretty offensive things (cannot WAIT until some creature gets him. Or Sacagawea!), but it didn’t make me squeamish enough to stop reading. Overall, I was feeling kind of in the middle about it—it was interesting enough, but maybe not so much that I would seek out the next installment. But some set up at the very end involving plant prophecies and demons from Clark’s past, as well as some loose ends, such as Sacagawea’s undisclosed role (both from L and C’s perspective and from her own) and the green-eyed cliff-jumper, convinced me the next volume is worth a place on my TBR. I’m looking forward to further development of some characters we only got a glimpse of, like Mrs. Boniface from La Charette, and York, Clark’s African-American companion (slave, freedman, servant—we don’t know yet).

Have you been reading this one in its comic book form, or do you plan to check out this graphic novel collection of issues #1-6? What other graphic novels have caught your eye lately?

*As ever, much as we are grateful for the copy, our review is uninfluenced by its source.


Goldie said...

Hmm, it sounds like this comic depicts Lewis and Clark's personalities accurately. I'm not wild about turning this into Deadlands. But Undaunted Courage is one of my favorite books, so I'm biased.

Alyssa L. said...

I had to look up both of those! From what I could glean through a quick Wiki-browse of Deadlands, it sounds similar in general idea, though with the earlier time period and no talk yet of magic. And Undaunted Courage sounds really good--I've added it to my TBR!

Sarah Hesler said...

If you're looking for good graphic novels, I must recommend Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I tried to check if you had already reviewed it, but I didn't see it, so it seems like fair game! War and pacifism in spaaaaaace!

Alyssa L. said...

I've heard great things about Saga from many corners, but have yet to pick it up! I'll have to do that soon. Others on my radar are Federal Bureau of Physics and Sex Criminals, but my local libraries seem to be sadly lacking on the graphic novel front sometimes.

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