Saturday, 3 January 2015

Manifest Destiny, Volume 2: Amphibia & Insecta Review (Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts)

Lewis and Clark continue their treacherous mission through the uncharted new world after the events of the first book tell them there’s more than just native Americans out there waiting for them. As well as their crew, made up of soldiers and criminals, they’re joined by the French survivors of the La Charette settlement and Sacagawea, an Indian warrior and guide. As they sail downriver, their craft gets snagged on an underwater arch and they’re stranded, surrounded by a giant man-eating frog and deadly giant mosquitoes! 

The second Manifest Destiny volume is a decent read but I felt it wasn’t as good as the first. The first book had a fast-moving plot where Lewis and Clark encountered buffalotaurs and then had to fight a camp of Swamp Thing zombies; the second is stuck in one location and they fight a frog and some insects. It’s just not as thrilling or sexy. 

The book is instead focused on character development, mostly on our heroes. Lewis remains on the immobilised ship while Clark is stuck on land with the monster frog lurking between them. It’s the first time we see the pair separated and gives them a chance to show that they’re not just: Lewis = science nerd, Clark = brawny beefcake. 

The last issue in particular, which is a flashback episode, reveals Lewis to be a bisexual action hero (why not?) and Clark to be an alcoholic who’s traumatised by what he might have seen/done in the Indian wars. But we also learn a bit about their crew who’re a mixed bunch of dead men walking, one of whom decides rape is a valid option to try in the middle of nowhere (and pays the price). 

The story itself seems like a puzzle, the kind that used to pop up in point-and-click PC games like Broken Sword or Monkey Island 3. Specifically it’s the sort where you’re stuck on a certain part. All the pieces are there, it’s just up to the player to figure out the right combination before proceeding on with the story. Like in the games, there’s actually a clever solution here, except, like in the games, it becomes maddeningly slow and boring while you stay in that one spot trying to tease it all out.

The art is definitely the best part of the book again. The giant frog (or “ranidea” as Lewis christens it) and giant mosquito designs are brilliant and there are some great splash pages like the underwater arch and the close-up of the mosquito dying in the jar. Really wonderful imagery and gorgeous colours give the pages a dazzling look throughout. 

This second book is a bit like the second season of The Walking Dead show where you’re still into the characters and story but you wish they’d move on from this particular part of it. I’m interested to see where the series is headed, especially after what President Jefferson shows Lewis in that flashback, hinting at what’s ahead of them. But Manifest Destiny Volume 2 is an alright book that’s certainly not terrible but unfortunately not as good as the first.

Manifest Destiny, Volume 2: Amphibia & Insecta

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