“Manifest Destiny Volume 1: Flora & Fauna” by Chris Dingess and Matthew Roberts (Image Comics, 2014)

Manifest Destiny: Flora and Fauna
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With a whole lineup of great comics making their debut in 2014, Manifest Destiny is one of the most eagerly awaited, now collected in the first graphic novel trade, Flora & Fauna. The year is 1804 and Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark are setting out from St. Louis, Missouri and are headed west in search of the Pacific and everything in between. But this isn’t your ordinary history lesson told in graphic novel form, for this is a different new world where everything isn’t as as it seems.

As Lewis and Clark, along with their contingent of soldiers and criminals (to be used as collateral in any fighting) set out on their journey of discovery they almost immediately come across a massive structure that looks a lot like the renowned gateway arch, only its over a hundred a fifty years before it is to be built, and it is covered in strange designs and flora. It is something both ancient and mysterious. And that’s when the group sees the first monsters, strange creatures that appear to be centaur-like creatures that are half human half bison.

They eventually meet up with a guide, Sacajawea, who is much more than a young and naïve Native American girl. And then there’s the strange plant virus running through everything and turning it into a zombie-like creature, including people. The group has more than enough to deal with in just staying alive, and it is then revealed that Lewis and Clark are actually on a secret mission appointed by President Jefferson to explore and classify the exotic and foreign life that exists in this strange place.

The story is an interesting one for the beginning of a new series and the title is clearly a play on the overused term. While the plant virus story seems a little simple, the other details (like the strange arch) hint at more mysterious and frightening things to come. The artwork is a little harsh and stark to perhaps match the tone of the story, but stronger and clearer details would do more to suck in the reader. Nevertheless, it is an engrossing and stimulating start to a new series that looks to go anywhere other than predictable.

Originally written on June 26, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

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