Manifest Destiny: Sasquatch (#18 – 24) – Chris Dingess

3 out of 5

This is an amazingly nuanced arc that’s also unfortunately underwhelming when read in isolation.  …Which exposes something very important about my feelings toward Manifest Destiny: that I have absolutely zero doubts that the threads of interest that are woven here will pay off in spades later on, and that retrospect might prove these issues to be some of the most important or impactful once further story details are revealed.  Even before this arc, Dingess and crew had proven their series to be of note, something that would last way beyond the cool idea of supernaturalizing American frontier history.  So although my rating seem to suggest that the book has cooled off, that’s not it at all.  It’s a compromise in the comic world that we do these things called arcs, marking a storyline as 1 of a number of set issues, and I do sincerely prefer that over titles that don’t adhere to clear arcs, as that gives the same feeling as reading a book without chapter breaks: it’s not outright a bad thing, and can be put to good use, but can also have the indirect effect of making the story feel endless, in a bad way.  These issues are labeled ‘Sasquatch,’ and said to last for six issues; we get a scuffle with this eponymous character early on, but they disappear thereafter.  Or at least sad and beautiful and gory moments featuring the furry, breathing version of the creature do; sasquatches continue to influence the story thereafter, but this is a brave and brilliant sidestep around the usual build-up-to-a-battle plotting.  When we have future issues to look back from, this section will be incredibly important for mythology building; in a book, this would be the grinding chapters midway through, with characters established and the author taking time to ratchet up the tension.  Direct things may not happen, but you can sense the importance of events nontheless.  But we don’t have those issues yet.  We don’t have another half of the book to flip through, eyes catching on exciting passages we can’t wait to get to.  And so Sasquatch is read in isolation, and it’s interesting at every step of the way, but avoids a direct payoff.  It’s akin to the beastly sightings that offer us the folklore of the arc’s title: generally just a flash, adorned with fanciful details, but nothing solid to prove what was seen excepting, perhaps, a blurry picture.  Matthew Roberts’ and Owen Gieni’s art is anything but blurry, but the story ends with that same sensation, of something being witnessed – with a lot of fanciful details – but nothing quite concrete to walk away from it with.

The story of Lewis and Clark’s proceedings are intercut with the diary entries of a Captain named Helm, from four years prior, trekking through the same area.  They both happen to run into the Sasquatch, but their interactions with the creatures could not be more different.  Dingess’ mirroring and diverging of his two timelines is brilliant, and the out-there territory into which it goes (Spanish ghosts!) is giddily charming, especially once it takes its inevitable turn into bigger WTF territory.

I realize this sounds like a ton of praise, but most of this occurs in the story’s first half.  The latter half is the wind-down, making sure the pieces land where they need to.

Pat Brosseu’s letters have been on point throughout this book, and he succeeds in his task of giving our separate diary-ists unique voices, but there were a couple of frustrating flubs where the exposition seemed to heavy for the panel and Pat moved the bubble behind some art.  I’m not saying putting it on top of the art would’ve been better, but the way it’s done in a couple places just serves to make the panel look chopped up.

Lawdy lawd, I know I’m a piss for rating this a three and then saying what I’m about to say, but I love this book.  Later on, when it’s confirmed that the hints in these issues change the world, I’ll come back a re-rate it.