Manifest Destiny Volume 1 by Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni

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Manifest Destiny Volume 1 by Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni

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Buy Manifest Destiny Volume 1 by Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: While on the whole this is nothing completely original, this graphic novel series opener provides for some great action and looks like it could become to carry a distinct mythology.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 128 Date: May 2014
Publisher: Image Comics
ISBN: 9781607069829

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It's 1804 and some newly-American soldiers are expanding the territory to the west, at the orders of President Jefferson – orders which allude to the pioneering party encountering some very unusual things. And they do – first a huge arc of greenery, putting the modern reader in mind of the Missouri landmark arch as bastardised by something along the lines of the Statue of Liberty in the original 'Planet of the Apes'. But when that site gets attacked the weirdness certainly starts to show itself…

It's only one step, and a simple one to make at that, to turn a fiction from being a story regarding people finding nasty things in space or on fantasy worlds to one where people find nasty things in an alternative slice of history. It's a step that's been made several times before now, but make no mistake – were this to be filmed, unlike another certain comic title it would not turn out to be just 'Cowboys & Aliens'. This clearly has depth, and some intrigue, and the beginnings of a fine series about it.

There are stereotypes – the crew of the boat being made up of people who want to be there and those who don't, for one, but that doesn't mean we can tell who are the 'red jerseys' who are immediately disposable. The journal style of the narrator's voice-over is a nicely old-fashioned touch, but it's the clash of old and new (or at least old and previously unimagined in combination) that reigns supreme.

Beyond the arch the discoveries are mostly regarding other species, a lot of which serve as threats, but the way they're brought to us – both pictorially and in the slow inevitability of the plot – is very nicely done. The plot does leave a few important things to one side – the fact the mission includes a native American girl comes up as an after-thought, but we're left wondering in a reasonably controlled way on the whole. And the whole six issues of the original book-form collection puts a nice semi-colon after proceedings as opposed to a firm full stop or an open-ended caesura.

Finally the artwork, which has to be mentioned at length, for providing a great amount of the success of the book. It's not flawless again, for several times at key points the artists will resort to odd-coloured plain backgrounds for the images, in ways that make no sense – non-diegetic colour, I guess you'd call it. Similarly, at least in the computer file format I read it, it wasn't perfect at delineating character regarding all the males on the boat and off. But the design certainly has a way with kinetic and impactful ways to introduce us to the various elements of the story, and a fine touch of colour – just witness the reds in the back-stories one of the whingeing explorers divulges.

All told, the volume at hand is not perfect, but certainly has enough to hook the reader into this bizarre world. Several times I was reminded of other genre stories, but the grounding in the historical look is first and foremost in providing us with a fresh, new-old story. I hope I'm allowed to witness further episodes in the greater, ongoing piece.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

For a very different look at animal-featuring history (closer to home, in this instance) in graphic novel form we enjoyed The Hartlepool Monkey by Wilfrid Lupano and Jeremie Moreau.

Buy Manifest Destiny Volume 1 by Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Manifest Destiny Volume 1 by Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Manifest Destiny Volume 1 by Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Manifest Destiny Volume 1 by Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni at Amazon.com.

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