Every friendship needs a Lewis and a Clark. This was the conclusion of one of my closest friend, President Thomas Jefferson, as we gathered to ruminate on life one day. One to be a starry-eyed dreamer, one to confront reality. We conducted this conversation as His Excellency and I switched roles in our friendship, where my Meriwether Lewis years of being a student of history and philosophy were being overtaken by a life of Clark-style tearing up the corporate ladder, interspersed with adventures on mountains and in deserts. In honor of this notion of our friendship His Excellency, who has settled into the role of Lewis to my Clark, gave me the graphic novel Manifest Destiny, the true story of why Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis & Clark to the West.
Vampires. Monsters. Buffalo minotaurs. Crazy plant creatures that turn you into walking moss. Yes, the French conned us back is in 1802, because the Louisiana Purchase was just one vast Dungeons & Dragons adventure.
In the kind of story that works best in comic books, Manifest Destiny tells an alternate version of the Lewis & Clark expedition, including the secret, undocumented army of river rats and convicts brought up river as cannon fodder and Sacajawea’s warrior princess skills. The keelboat is full of guns, wooden stakes, and Greek fire, and our heroes dutifully slay monsters with dreamy wistfulness or ruthless precision, as fits their particular styles.
For all the wilderness adventure and original monsters, Manifest Destiny excels as a character driven story. The relationship between the two men has been explored in Steven Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage and in M. R. Montgomery’s Jefferson & the Gun-Men. But while Manifest Destiny is a fictional fantasy, I felt like I got to understand the nature of the two men, particularly the violent and taciturn Clark, in a way that I haven't before.
Manifest Destiny! Still being published monthly by Image, with two trade volumes out and a third on the way. Go buy a copy today!