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The Lone and Level Sands
Words by A. David Lewis - Art by Marvin Perry Mann, Jennifer Rodgers - Published by Archaia Studios Press - First published 2005
There are hundreds of cliches about story-telling, but some of them hold grains of truth: the best stories are the old stories; and history is always written by the winners. The Old Testament undoubtedly holds some of the greatest stories ever told, whether you believe in their historical accuracy or not. But as a foundation of the mythology that surrounds most of the religions that sprang from the Middle East, its bias swings heavily in favour of those who created it.
The Lone and Level Sands is an ambitious work that takes one of the key stories from the book - the exodus of the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery - but examines it from a different perspective: that of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II.
It's an intriguing take on the proceedings. The Egyptian dynasty is portrayed as cruel and unfair, but essentially human. While the Pharaoh struggles with what to do about the Hebrew uprising and the portents that Moses can seemingly pull down from the heavens (rivers run with blood, plagues of frogs, disease that decimates Egyptian first-born males), Ramses often appears to be on the verge of relinquishing his grip. But a word from a key aid, dressed in this book as an otherworldly command from a supernatural entity possessing the character, will always pull him from the brink of absolving himself.
What really happened out there in the deserts of north east Africa at this time is impossible to say, but it's a great story and it's fascinating to see this alernate viewpoint. However, Lewis isn't trying to rewrite the Bible, so even with Ramses's advisors giving him questionable advice, it's still difficult to see far beyond the Egyptian's basic policy of racial enslavement. It's like suggesting that the wolf only captured and ate Little Red Riding Hood because his advisors told him to, and that those advisors might not have been of sound mind. So what? He still did it.
However, the spirit of the desert seems well captured. Mann's artwork capitalises on the extreme light and shade of the environment, while Rodgers' colouring adds further flavour. And Lewis's script, drawing on historical references as well as religious, adds further dimension to a famous story, even if it can't add any new information.
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