Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Manifest Destiny Vol 1 Review (Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts, Owen Gieni)


I think the trend started with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – classic stories/characters/historical figures being mashed into pulpy, dispensable books. From there we got Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, and so on, to name a couple. Manifest Destiny is similar in that the pitch is essentially “Lewis & Clark: Monster Hunters”, but it’s much better than the aforementioned dross (and probably why the creators wisely went with Manifest Destiny for a title!).

The legendary American explorers, Lewis & Clark, head west into uncharted America where they meet Sacagawea, a Native American, who will be their guide. But they’re not on a mission of exploration, which is just a cover story – they’re secretly out to seek and destroy the monsters only a handful of men in the young American government, including the President, know about! That’s right, the American frontier once contained mythical creatures like buffalotaurs and dryads – and they’re all gonna burn!

Manifest Destiny is actually a lot less corny than you’d expect given the setup – it plays out like a horror mystery film from the 70s like The Wicker Man rather than the schlocky, over-the-top blood’n’guts horror stories we get these days. Writer Chris Dingess quietly builds tension at the start peppering the story with strange visuals – a giant green arch, a flower shaped like a skull – before revealing giant animal-headed warriors and Swamp Thing-esque Plant Zombies.

But the aspect of the book that will have the biggest impact on you will be the outstanding art team of Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni whose images are so beautiful. The opening page of unspoiled natural America in all its glory is pure candy for your eyes, and there are tons of moments where you’ll pause in the narrative to look closely at the page – the skull flower in particular was stunning, but the buffalotaur designs are incredible, and the various types of plant zombies are so weirdly alluring yet sickening, you can’t help but stop and stare to take in the detail.

Dingess and co.’s take on Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea and their revised story works really well and as a first volume is a brilliant start to this great series. Manifest Destiny is a highly enjoyable historical adventure with elements of thriller/mystery/horror and contains gorgeous art – an excellent comic well worth reading!

Manifest Destiny Volume 1 TP

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