If you went into this volume expecting to see Lewis, Clark, and their associates take on the legendary “Bigfoot” then you’re not going to be disappointed. In fact, they find themselves up against many sasquatches fairly early on, all thanks to the actions of the explorers who came before them. That’s what sets this volume apart from the previous three as writer Chris Dingess delivers two parallel narratives about the exploration of the old Western United States. Prior to Lewis & Clark, there was Helm & Flewelling and their far less prepared expedition. When winter comes they find themselves resorting to desperate measures in order to survive, until Helm gets some assistance from an unexpected source. What follows is a disturbing tale of survival as Helm commits savage acts of violence to survive and make sure his message regarding the future prosperity of America reaches the right people.
In the present day, we see Lewis & Clark putting Helm’s knowledge to better use for the good of the group. While it’s shown to work out well for pretty much everyone, the question now becomes whether or not they’ll be able to use it to do the right thing in the end. “Manifest Destiny” may appear to be a fun adventure series which adds a supernatural twist to the exploration of America’s old frontier, but it has also acknowledged the ruthless measures that were taken in order to tame it for everyone. It’s easy to argue for this approach when the monsters are unreasoning creatures like those featured in the first two volumes. But when “taming” comes down to stabbing the carnivorous bird people who helped you in the back, or taking out violent monsters who are attacking you as a result of what the people before you did, justification becomes that much harder. It’s hard not to notice the Native American presence in this volume and realize where this approach is going down the line. There’s more to this series than I had initially thought, and I’m very interested in seeing how Lewis & Clark deal with the increasing moral complications of their journey from here on out.