The latest Manifest Destiny brings the “Sasquatch” story arc to an end in fairly spectacular fashion. These story arcs function quite a bit like seasons of television, and Chris Dingess has fashioned a whopper of a finale in issue #24. The art team of Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni reach new heights here: there are panels in this issue that are literally the most effective, beautiful and haunting to appear in this comic, combining classic American landscape art in the romantic tradition with top-notch grotesque modern comics styles.
For once, it would be quite imprudent to discuss plot points here in this particular review. There are many significant revelations, including one in particular towards the end of the issue that links the Lewis and Clark expedition to the 1801 mission of Captain Helm. (“Private Dawes” makes a cameo appearance, albeit in the Yorick role.) But we can comment here briefly on some of the themes. Needless to say that any fan of Manifest Destiny should run to get this new issue.
The Corps of Discovery are settling down for the winter. It’s a time of preparation for a long nap – one of the crewmen says that he just wants to finish his shelter and crawl into it. So, for once the mood of the entire team is lighter than usual. Lewis, of course, is the first to relax and Clark the last, which is in keeping with their temperament. Still tense after their last encounter with the Teton Sioux, Clark insists on handling the negotiations with the Mandans, destined to be their neighbours/hosts for the long midwestern winter. Ironically, the negotiations go easily and quickly, and Lewis takes the opportunity to tease Clark a little, but Lewis would have the ribbing returned in time. Sacagawea is growing more surly as her pregnancy advances, growing impatient with Charbonneau and snapping at York when he chastises her for disobeying Captain Clark. Mrs. Boniface even gets in on the act, erupting in laughter when Lewis essentially says that she has nothing to worry about as long as he’s with her for the winter. Lewis, for his part, seems to only partially understand how naive he’s being.
Captain Helm, in his parallel storyline, is also stopped for the winter, but his insanity returns as quickly as his health. And that’s about all we can say about Helm this time out, but there are important developments with his character that re-frame the entire series so far.
For all the story-related cleverness, the art here is truly wonderful, with classic splash pages such as the one below, depicting a buffalo hunt. Part of the strength of Manifest Destiny lies in its ability to subvert historical archetypes, both visual and personal, and the team really shines in that respect in this issue.
We’ll have more spoiler-filled thoughts at a later date, but consider issue #24 enthusiastically recommended.