Lewis & Clark
written by Nick Bertozzi
You could spend hours getting lost within the pages of Lewis & Clark, which is, of course, the point. Writer/artist Nick Bertozzi quite modestly notes in his foreword that he hopes his new nonfiction work will be taken as “in no way intended to be a replacement for the many scholarly recountings of the journey” of the famed historical explorers, but the truth is that he’s created such a smashingly engaging piece of historical narrative that it deserves to be included along with those references.
Bertozzi begins in 1803, as Meriweather Lewis receives notice that congress has approved of his exploration—all $2,500 of it. He recruits his partner, William Clark, and begins to plot his course through history—the Redcoats will obtain not one more beaver pelt, Lewis promises. And here is where Bertozzi has his most fun, dismantling history into comical tidbits that belie the massive undertaking that both Lewis and Clark are about to make their own. In a series of briefly paneled descriptions, Bertozzi depicts Lewis’s fast-paced education in botany, medicine, geology, and navigation…and we begin to piece together just how daunting the task that lay before him truly was.
Lewis & Clark is a dense book, and it’s also a historically accurate one. Beyond that, though, it’s a fun and exhilarating look at one of the most remarkable pieces of American history: the exploration of the west that Lewis and Clark embarked upon was so fraught with danger and mayhem that it’s almost unbelievable now. Yet watching it unfold and come alive under the dazzling pencil work of Bertozzi it becomes compelling.
What Lewis and Clark endured has all the markings of the most rigorous of adventure tales, and that should not be ignored. It isn’t here. But as everyone knows, there were many personal demons that needed to be faced, particularly by Lewis, and Bertozzi does not shy away. It would be wrong to spoil the coda that but suffice to say that Bertozzi satisfactorily brings this tale to a close and gives it the poignancy it so deserves.
This is a rich work and an important one.