MANIFEST DESTINY #20
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Chris Dingess
Pencils, Cover: Matthew Roberts
Inks: Tony Akins & Stefano Gaudiano
Colours: Owen Gieni
Lettering: Pat Brosseau
Issue #19 of Manifest Destiny opened a new story arc, that the cover tells us will be called Sasquatch. Most of it was dedicated to a flashback (that we follow through the pages of the Captain’s diary) to an expedition that preceded Lewis and Clarke’s by three years; with the coming of the winter, they built a wooden shelter in which to protect themselves from the cold. Unfortunately, they only had food for a few weeks. As they are rationing what they have to eat, some of the men start seeing through the corner of their eye a shape, a big hulking shape, apparently quite hairy. I think the title of the arc may be helping us understand what it is.
At the end of December, a man is hung for insubordination. The people who lead the expedition decide to “make use” of him. Yes, they end up resorting to cannibalism. Meanwhile, the Captain (whose diary we are reading) starts having visions – we don’t know what caused them.
When we finally get back to the story’s “present day” (which is 1804), with the Lewis & Clarke expedition, we find that they have reached the very same hut, where they find a strange, charred skull.
Issue #20 follows up directly from the finding of the skull. Apparently, President Jefferson already owns a skull like that – the skull of a Cyclops, or so the men think anyway. They also find something that looks like a mass grave, full of human skeletons. We realise that they have been following all along the diary we read from in the previous issue (and not only), written by one Captain Helm. Also, we discover that the ghost Helm saw belonged to Arturo Maldonado, a member of the Núñez Cabeza de Vaca Expedition, a failed attempt to explore the south of what now are the United States that took place in the sixteenth century.
So: as usual for Manifest Destiny, the summary ends up being quite long. This probably says a lot about the complexity of the story, that borrows some things from history (the Lewis & Clarke Expedition happened, although they only lost one man instead that seeing the massacre we get to witness monthly in Manifest Destiny, and so did the Núñez Cabeza de Vaca Expedition) mixing them up with legends and traditions and, at the same time, episodes and events completely created by Chris Dingess.
One thing that always comes to my mind when writing about this series is the art, very lifelike (especially when depicting creatures that don’t actually exist – yes, it makes sense if you read it again) – and the colours. Especially the greens. How many shades of green are there around? No, don’t answer. Unless you actually are Owen Gieni, the colourist of Manifest Destiny: he seems to be on a mission to use them all and possibly to create a new one or two.
In conclusion, Manifest Destiny is a great adventure series; entertaining, occasionally funny, often scary, sometimes quite… yucky, and always extremely original.