Up until the end, this latest volume of the weird adventures of Lewis and Clark is another successful round of high adventure on the untamed American frontier. This time around the explorers see one of the mysterious arches in the distance and two weird things for their trouble. The first is a blue-feathered, smart-assed, Muppet-like tribe of creatures known as the Fezron who have a taste for humans even as they offer up sacrifices to keep the other bit of weirdness in this story at bay. That would be the “Chiroptera” of the title, and it winds up being a magnificently brutal and creepy thing for our heroes to face off against. Along the way, we get to see how Lewis deals with a potential mutiny, find out more about Sacagawea’s history, get to know how one of the younger members of the crew found himself in this mess, and start to learn just where all of these strange creatures are coming from. It’s the usual great storytelling I’ve been led to expect from writer Chris Dingess and artist Matthew Roberts.
Then you get to the ending and HOLY CRAP was that brutal! Without giving too much away, the ending shines a harsh light on the other reason behind Lewis and Clark’s expedition. While exploring the frontier is a big part of it, they’ve also been charged with making it clear of danger. Some may see the actions of the cast as being irredeemably harsh in light of events in the story up to that point, but I actually think they were necessary. Dingess and Roberts don’t shy away from the grisly details of their characters’ work, which actually makes their point hit that much harder. I also get the feeling that it’s not entirely dissimilar from the hinted-at days that our protagonists spent killing Native Americans in the name of making the frontier safe. This may have been the right choice, against creatures who were shown to be a clear threat to humans. Yet now I’m left wondering if the choices the characters face will always be this easy, or even shown to be the right ones over time. I look forward to finding out!