Friday, November 15, 2013

Image Comics Manifest Destiny #1 Reviewed

Manifest Destiny #1 Review
(Image Comics)
By Andrew O’Brien

History is fun! No, really history is fantastic. It is one of the great wellsprings in fiction thanks to the sheer variety of stories you can tell within it. My personal favorite type of historical fiction is historical revisionism. You don’t seem convinced, but I guarantee you know what I’m talking about and that you also enjoy historical revisionism. For example, Assassin’s Creed is one of the most popular video game franchises of the last generation. It is also one of the greatest examples of modern historical revisionism I can think of.  If you aren’t an avid gamer (or you’ve been living under a rock for the past 7 or so years) Assassin’s Creed takes important points in history such as the Crusades, the Italian Renaissance, and the American Revolution, and adds a twist to them. You play through the games as a member of the Assassins, an ancient guild of killers who help influence those famous historical eras. Although the mystical elements of the game are completely false, the events and characters are very similar to what actually happened (sans the Assassins of course). So like I said you (yes even you) like history and historical revisionism as much as I do. So let’s talk about Lewis, Clark, and monsters.

"In 1804, Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark set out on an expedition to explore the uncharted American frontier. This is the story of what they discovered lurking in the wilds…

Skybound’s newest original series unveils the monsters of the western frontier in the adventure of a lifetime by writer CHRIS DINGESS (Being Human) and up-and-coming artist MATTHEW ROBERTS."

Chris Dingess and Matthew Roberts’s Manifest Destiny starts us out in the early days of Lewis and Clark’s expedition into the Louisiana Purchase. Lewis is the intellectual and takes the main stage as his journal entries narrate the majority of the issue. Clark on the other hand is the military-trained tough guy of the duo. It’s clear from the opening pages that their mission branches out from just exploration, and more in the supernatural direction. The famous explorers, along with their volunteer army of soldiers and convicts are in the early stages of their journey, and it’s not going as they planned. Boredom has secured its grip over the group since they haven’t found any of the wonders they expected. This does not bother the volunteer soldiers, but the convicts are uneasy, and with that disposition, Jensen, the most troublesome one, begins to plot. Jensen realizes that all the men have no families and are on this mission to die, so he decides to organize an escape. His escape plan is halted by exactly what they were sent to find, and it’s unlike anything they’ve seen before. I can reveal that it is a monster since that’s the whole draw of the book (kinda tough to draw you in if it’s the last page reveal ..thanks a lot guys) but I won’t tell you guys what kind. All I can say is that it’s a unique blend of two mythologies, and I’ll leave it at that.

First of all, Dingess is definitely a capable writer. His characters are clear. The plot was understandable, and the pacing was on point, but this first issue was pretty shallow. There were two cool twists, but past that, there wasn’t much else there. I felt that this issue had a little too much setup. It was all background on Lewis and Clark, and since I’ve always been interested in history I didn’t particularly need the lesson. The stuff I wanted to see came in short bursts with a big mystery in the middle and the last page. That wasn’t enough for me, at least in a first issue. Other than the plot, I though the characters were more on the standard side as well; Lewis was the brain, Clark was the jock, and Jensen was the troublemaker. I guess my expectations were too high, but Dingess’s base concept and the last page was enough to keep me interested ...for now.

Roberts’s art was also on the standard side. As far as characters go, this is your run of the mill comic book style with nothing to brag about. But, and it's a big BUT, there were a few pages that were a cut above the rest. The first page was very detailed, and then the subsequent “big reveal” pages were quite good as well. I’m not sure how experienced Roberts is in comic book storytelling, but his best pages were his splash pages. His other ones weren’t bad, but they were only JUST good. Actually, looking back, that’s pretty much how I felt about the book. It was just good. My expectations were probably too high, and as far as Image launches go, I don’t think this will go in the history books as one of their best, but the whole concept of Lewis and Clark fighting monsters in the American West is good enough to keep me on board. I think you should give this book a shot if you’re already interested in the source material. If you couldn’t care less about the adventures of Lewis and Clark then skip it, but if you’re a history buff like me then you should definitely give it a look.

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