Friday, December 26, 2008

The Lone and Level Sands

Written by A. David Lewis
Art by mpMann

This is a really interesting re-telling of the story of Moses and the Pharoah, but told from Ramses's point of view. The king wants to do right by his people, and is working to fulfill his father's vision of Abu Simbel and its temples and monuments. The portrayal of Ramses is of a family man - devoted to his queen and grandchild above all else.

Ramses is met by his cousin, Moses, and Aaron, who come to him as leaders of the Israelites to demand their freedom. The story is familiar - there are wonders beheld, followed by refusals, leading to plagues.

What makes this telling of the story so compelling is that we see Ramses as being manipulated by Jahweh, the god of the Israelites. At each point where he is shown as being ready to concede to their demands, God speaks to him from the mouths of his closest advisors and family members, convincing him to stay the course, with increasingly disastrous results. The effect of this is to portray the Egyptian people not as cruel slave-holders, but as pawns in a game played out on a cosmic level.

I don't know if there is any sort of historical evidence to support this telling, or if Lewis and Mann are simply telling the story their way, but it does place the bible stories in a different light. I'm sure there are some who might see this tale as lightly anti-Semitic, but that would be over-stating things a great deal.

The comic is gorgeous - Mann's art is well suited for this type of story. The colours, by Jennifer Rodgers are such an integral part of my enjoyment of this book, that I don't know how it would have read in the original black and white. I imagine it would have been very difficult to tell some of the Egyptian characters apart.

Reading this book does make me wonder a few things about Archaia Studios Press, and more specifically, the status of Lewis and Manns' "A New Kind of Slaughter" (which I was enjoying very much), and Mann's other recent series (with Rob Vollmar), "Inanna's Tears". If anyone knows what might happen to these titles following the buy-out by Devil's Due, I'd appreciate knowing (I want to know what's up with the Killer too - I love that book).

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