(Chris Dingess / Matthew Roberts / Owen Gieni / Pat Brosseau /Sean Mackiewicz; Image/Skybound)
So, Manifest Destiny #1? More like Lewis and Clark, Monster Hunters, amirite? See, Dingess and Roberts are taking on a well worn tale of exploration from the American mythos and putting a supernatural spin on it. You know... for kids!
But this isn't for kids, this is something else entirely. This is the journey/quest motif which has been ingrained in our consciousness, the patriotic monomyth on which we hang our tri-cornered hats. As Americans, it was our god given future, our Manifest Destiny, to stretch ourselves from sea to shining sea. And by golly, it was with moral imperative that we stomped on the faces of those who would get in our way.
Especially if we cast them first as monsters.
Dingess is rewriting history and adding an Area 51 to the Louisiana Purchase. Along the way, he anchors his tale in a historical context, gives what appears to be layers of depth to his characters, and throws in a hint of the genocide to come for the Native People whose lives will suffer from all this. It's a tale of true heroism, charting the uncharted, but with it comes the slippery slope of our modern “empathetic” political correctness. When you start killing things in the name of discovery (and conquest), you enter a world of moral relativism. Dingess hints at this already in first issue of his series, and it will be interesting to see if he follows this line of thought to some new conclusions.
We are making maps, after all.
Matthew Roberts' art is the perfect compliment to Dingess' story. You can tell he has done extensive research into his subject matter and he takes great pains to, I assume, “get it right”. His style reminds me a bit of Sean Murphy's, but that's a good thing in my book. Complimenting Roberts' lines is the color work of Owen Gieni – there's kind of a “chalkiness” (as I have no other term for it) to Gieni's work that doesn't necessarily flatten out the images, but, in a way, places everything in a world somewhere between two-dimensional and three-dimensional. The perfect place to tell a monster tale.
I hope this series ventures into greater questions of morality as it spins its adventure story, pursuing questions of what is lost as things are gained. As of this first issue, Dingess, Roberts, and Gieni seem to have left that door open. There is an eagerness to this book – it captures the excitement that fills the beginning of any exploration.
As with all great journeys, though, as we go further and further into the wilderness, what monsters shall we encounter? I'm hoping that, at some point, these creators take a moment to identify that sometimes the monsters are us.