By Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts, and Owen Gieni
Manifest Destiny has been a great addition to the Skybound imprint at Image thus far. Issue #13 is the start of a new arc, and had the makings of a somewhat slow issue, but the reveal of a new arch added just enough excitement to the foreshadowing elements to make it a success.
Chris Dingess has put together a cast of characters with personalities that range from likable to straight-up abhorrent. Much of what we look forward to in this series is having the crew of explorers run into new monsters, but equally compelling now is trying to figure out how Lewis and Clark are going to keep this crew together. Manifest Destiny is taking a page from a more popular Skybound series (you know, the one with over 100 print issues and five seasons of TV shows on AMC) by making the story more about the human reaction to terrible circumstances than the supernatural creatures inhabiting their world. The introduction of a new creature along with the fragrant new arch is exciting, but it is really a path towards what may ultimately become a full-scale mutiny. We see early in this issue that the crew has become a bit restless and is finally speaking up about not wanting to continue on Lewis and Clark’s mission. Clark has been keeping the crew together by force but, that is bound not to hold once the conditions of their employment are more dangerous than Clark’s threats. One last note about this issue is that we finally get to see Lewis’ take on what the arches mean. If you hadn’t noticed before, this is a nice revelation about why the arches may exist but we’re no closer to figuring out how they can be removed.
Matthew Roberts has done a great job with this issue. We get one last look at the fungal disease that ripped through the crew, and it is too bad because that was one of the best visuals in the series. Hopefully they find a way to make it eat a few more people! We also have a new creature drawn up that is a great mixture of scales, feathers, and teeth. It may not be the scariest thing we’ve seen so far, but we’ll see how much damage it can do in upcoming issues. As nice as the creatures are, you can see Roberts’ eastern Virginia influence in many of the great backgrounds. It just so happens that eastern Virginia probably still looks like what much of the early 19th century United States looked like as you started moving westward. He really does excel at placing these characters in a consistent, lush environment of overgrown flora.
Owen Gieni finishes off those lush backgrounds expertly. Since much of this issue and most of the series so far takes place in a forest, Gieni has to use a lot of shading and subtle color transitions. There are so many trees and green grassy hills that there is a lot that must go into the coloring to show the depth of the vegetation. Those trees also place some difficult shadows depending on where a specific character is placed. On the coloring front, some of the best frames in this issue are in a morning sunrise scene across pages 4 and 5. Two consecutive frames show a reflection of a valley in a telescope and then the view through the telescope of the valley and both are colored beautifully with shades of orange overtaking the darker blue morning sky. Lastly, it is always fun to see Gieni get a chance to play with colors when new creatures appear. The new creature that is hinted at on the cover is an almost unnatural blue, which really is unnerving to see in an almost recognizable animal form.
There is a lot to look forward to in Manifest Destiny. This book holds a lot of promise for the many story paths that could emerge from the great first two arcs. Given that we still know so little about the arches, the natives, and how Lewis and Clark intend to complete this mission they’ve been tasked with, you have got to be excited to see where this series goes!