Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Lone and Level Sands

The Lone and Level Sands is an original graphic novel published by Archaia Studios Press this past December. It was originally self-published in black and white, but was colored by Jennifer Rodgers for its Archaia Studios hardcover debut. Written by A. David Lewis and illustrated by Marvin Perry Mann, this book has very beautiful production values. Nice glossy pages, a nice book jacket and just an overall very professional presentation. The story, basically, is a retelling of the book of Exodus, from the perspective of Ramses the pharaoh. The idea behind the story is really interesting, of a man who tries to do the best for his kingdom in the face of Moses, who is depicted as a ruthless, pretty arrogant messenger for a wrathful god. He taunts Ramses as locusts are on their way: "Diminishing water, scarce food, virtual imprisonment within their homes - where is your nation now, Pharaoh?" God is the bad guy here, manipulating people on both sides to make his prophecies come true, laying waste to this proud civilization. Like the creators of the series wanted, it throws out the traditional good vs. evil motif and explores the fact that there is no absolute good or evil, but motives for actions, whether they're selfish and oppressive, or ambitious and self-righteous. Ramses isn't a two-dimensional tyrannical ruler here like in Exodus. He loses everything in the end, no matter how you look at it. In his pitiful state, can he really be called the villian of this tale? And on the flip side, can Moses be called evil because he desired the freedom of his people, trusting in a god who brought about such devestation for their oppressors? The Lone and Level Sands focuses on the people of the story, rather than indulging in the plagues as most stories on the subject would have done. It's very effective in this regard. However, I have to say that going into it expecting some great art depicting these scenes, I was disappointed. I must confess that I wasn't too fond of the art overall. I enjoyed reading this book, but I would say that it's an average read and can't bring myself to recommend it above things that I truly love. But if you think it sounds interesting, by all means, check it out.

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