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The Lone and Level Sands    by A. David Lewis, mpMann & Jennifer Rodgers order for
Lone and Level Sands
by A. David Lewis
Order:  USA  Can
Archaia Studios Press, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

The biblical tale of Moses has been repeatedly invoked throughout the centuries. Regardless of the true historical Moses, his legendary life is greatly admired - he represents strength, faith, and community as few figures can. But A. David Lewis, mpMann, and Jennifer Rodgers contextualize him in a very interesting way that will make readers think outside the story and reconsider how one interprets such tales.

The Foreword emphasizes that The Lone and Level Sands is not to be taken as simply a retelling from another character's point of view. That is, this graphic novel does not just portray the freeing of Israelite slaves from Egyptian rule through the eyes of Pharoah Ramses II, but rather is an unfolding drama of gods and humans in mythic tradition. The story evolves an air that evokes the famous Shakespearean King Lear quote, 'Like flies to wanton boys, we are to the gods'. Neither Moses nor Ramses II can retire easily from their struggle - that power is beyond their reach. Until the plagues have ravaged his nation, Ramses is incapable of freeing Moses' people and he, too, must suffer through the hardships put upon him and his own folk. Ultimately, Lewis portrays them both as epic heroes.

Ramses II leads his people as best he can in the face of these plagues. While he knows the right choice is to free the Israelites, he is continually prevented from doing so. Initially his pride stops him from granting freedom, but soon forces beyond his control manipulate him to hold on to the slaves. He learns the hard lesson that he, the Pharaoh of Egypt is but a pawn to a higher being.

The art demands patience and attention to detail. Some characters are very similar in appearance and demeanor and can be hard to figure out. However, if one watches for the right cues, it makes sense. The art maintains a distinctive Egyptian feel, invoking Egyptian symbolism, artistic mannerisms, and backgrounds to create an authentic setting for this tale. Throughout, a dull yellow denotes the abundance of sand and its affect on surroundings, which means when rich colors are used, they stand out immediately, grabbing readers' attention.

By the end of this graphic novel, God's intentions will never sound right again. Though Moses has already been cast as an epic hero, this tale adds elements that greatly enhance and reconfigure him (as well as Ramses II) to resemble epic heroes such as Gilgamesh, Achilles, and Odysseus.

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