cover image SUNDIATA: A Legend of Africa

SUNDIATA: A Legend of Africa

Will Eisner, . . NBM, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56163-332-6

This series is one of a few literary adaptations Eisner's penned in recent years, and this story seems the least suited to the artist's urban style. The Sundiata legend is a hero/nation-building myth, an adaptation of the African legend of Sundiata, in which a Malian child-prince, born crippled, liberates his people from Sumanguru, the evil King of the rival Sosso people. Eisner's version of the tale begins with an explanation of the Great Grey Rock, a magical stone which gives Sumanguru mighty evil powers. Sumanguru discards the stone after tapping its powers, an act he will regret. Eventually Sumanguru comes to the land of Mali and defeats Sundiata's father. When Sundiata finally confronts Sumanguru, he is saved from defeat by the deviously magical Rock, which removes Sumanguru's evil powers at a crucial moment. Sundiata then rules gently over his newly free and prosperous Mali. While these events unfold clearly enough, there is nary an ounce of drama in the book. Eisner's artwork, once supple and expressive, has deteriorated into a scratchy, by-the-numbers affair. On firm territory when he creates urban stories, in this work he seems lost in the wilderness. Eisner is one of the great masters of comics storytelling, but his recent works continue to suffer from stereotype and melodrama. (Mar.)