So, this guy named Moses walks into a bar in Egypt and is like, “Let my people go.” And then the Pharaoh says…
You’re probably familiar with the story of Moses. Whether from Sunday school or Charlton Heston’s The Ten Commandments, I’m sure some information about the guy with the big white beard has trickled your way. And maybe you remember a little something about Ramses II from history class as well but as we all know, history is written by the winners and can be cast in a whole new light when looked at from a different perspective. Writer A. David Mann chose to shine his light on the Book of Exodus.
The Lone and Level Sands examines the well-known biblical tale with a magnifying glass pointed directly at Egypt’s ruler. This is not Moses’ story, it’s Ramses’ and he’s depicted as neither the hero nor the villain. Here, the famous Pharaoh is just a man trying his best to deal with an unusual set of circumstances laid at his feet while protecting his family, people and country. Moses and his personal relationship with “God,” or Yahweh as he’s referred to here, is just that. Personal. Moses barely speaks at all throughout the book, relying on his brother Aaron and Yahweh’s great plagues to do the talking for him. Ramses, first a stoic and proficient leader, is slowly sullied by the events almost to the point of pure insanity. His wife is dying, his people are starving, yet his actions repeatedly take him further and further away from the simple solution – letting his Israelite slaves free. What is right? And how much does faith affect his decisions? It’s questions like those that remind us of the human being he really was and what he might have struggled with during his lifetime.
The Lone and Level Sands did not jump out at me immediately. It wasn’t until I finished the book and let it sink in that I really felt it’s significance. Lewis certainly knows how to spin a yarn. I never thought I’d be reading about the Book of Exodus (especially not in comic form) or feel affected by Ramses II but I did, and I was, and it surprised me. The art by mpMann played a big part in my response to the book. It’s almost like reading hieroglyphics, without being so literal of course. Originally printed in black and white, this new colored version by Jennifer Rodgers from Archaia is absolutely a beneficial addition to the story as a whole. My few gripes are with the art and layout. The speech boxes change format depending on the page arrangement and narration is sometimes left to interpretation, or at the very least, not immediately recognizable. Speaking of distinctions, a few of the central characters are illustrated very analogous to one another, making identification difficult at times.
Despite it’s flaws, The Lone and Level Sands achieves what it set out to do, show us that one event can be viewed in an entirely different way when shown through the eyes of another. I grew up learning the story of Moses but I’d be very interested to hear what an outside observer thinks of the story as told by Lewis. Religious fanatics might call this blasphemy while non-believers may say it’s pure fiction but there are facts and lessons to take away from the story as well. In fact, the book would make a good teaching tool for those looking to explore all perspectives of history and religion.
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