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Manifest Destiny, Vol. 1: Flora & Fauna


Chris Dingess (Author) and Matthew Rogers

(Illustrator), Image Comics (Publisher)

> Review by Carolyn Marcille

Manifest Destiny does a great job of extrapolating the myth of American exceptionalism, the idea that America is bigger-better-faster-stronger than other nations based on beliefs about liberty and individualism that date back to the Revolutionary War. Here, Dingess and Rogers pull this idea to a relatively unnatural conclusion—that the Lewis and Clark expeditions, long held as a bastion of strength, power and ingenuity in terms of exploration of the uncharted areas of the American West, were not just attempting to expand the areas of America that could be considered habitable by humans, but were also charting the dangerous supernatural creatures that dotted the landscape. This first volume finds our intrepid explorers encountering zombie plants, humans and animals, as well as oversize buffalo “minotaurs” who function as a stand-in for Native American tribes. The art in Manifest Destiny is detailed, colorful and striking, especially the flowers. There is a particularly breathtaking image of an orchid fashioned after a human skull, and the animals that have been overtaken by zombie fungus are an excellent combination of campy and gruesome. My biggest issue with Manifest Destiny comes with the conceit of the book itself; its taking a “here there be monsters” approach to colonial power is historical erasure. In reality, the American West was not uninhabited, or inhabited by monsters. It was inhabited by Native American tribes who were wiped out after contact with the European “civilizing mission.” I feel as though we all should learn more about the vastly more macabre true history of colonial interactions with native people before adding zombies to the mix.

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