Neil Gaiman’s The Last Temptation 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
The Last Temptation 20th Anniversary Deluxe edition by Neil Gaiman and Alice Cooper; art by Michael Zulli and Dave McKean. October 21, 2014. Dynamite Entertainment, 168 p. $39.99 ISBN:9781606905364.
“Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Coraline, American Gods) brings shock rocker Alice Cooper’s concept album to life in a surreal sideshow of the soul! Join a young boy named Steven on a surreal journey of the soul, as an enigmatic and potentially dangerous Showman seduces him into joining his carnival. Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of this seminal Gaiman work, returned to print for the first time in over a decade. Fully remastered in color, this Deluxe Edition incorporates complete scripts to all three chapters, black-and-white thumbnail art of pre-colored pages, an original outline of the project by Neil Gaiman, and a collection of letters between shock rocker Alice Cooper and the author! “I’m really happy that The Last Temptation is coming out for a new generation of readers, who have not seen Michael Zulli’s glorious drawings, or know of the Showman and his wicked ways,” says Neil Gaiman. “I wrote this a long time ago, driven by love of Ray Bradbury’s dark carnivals and of Alice Cooper’s own pandemonium shadow show. It’s time for it to shuffle out onto a leaf-covered street and meet the people who don’t know about Stephen and Mercy and show what’s coming to town.”” — Publisher’s Description
Imagine if you will the collaboration between a rock and roll icon and an up and coming gothic, macabre author and you have the brilliant result in The Last Temptation. Both the graphic novel by Neil Gaiman, and the concept album by Alice Cooper tell the story of a young boy, Steven, who is tempted by the mysterious, supernatural Showman (depicted as Alice Cooper) to join his “Theater of the Real” in exchange for eternal youth. All is not what it seems, however, as Steven grapples with the Showman’s twisted morality plays and his own fears about growing up and growing old.
Only Steven can see and enter the Theater, as he was selected by the Showman as “this year’s model” for entry into the cast. Steven will grapple with the morbid presentations of the Showman to convince him that his life would better be spent with the Theater than in his small town American life. The book is divided into three acts where we see Steven first enter the Theater and receive his offer from the Showman, a second where he spends a day living his life as a normal tween on Halloween, and the third where he returns to the Theater to meet the Showman and make his final decision.
Set around Halloween, this book draws on the themes of the seasonal change and the symbolic death we see in the Autumn. It also pulls on the fears that most children have around the end of October. The artwork is key to getting the feel for this horror and the outright fear Steven feels at times. It is an older style than most modern comics I have seen (I mean, this is a 20 year old book), but younger or newer audiences will definitely appreciate it and the emotions it conveys clearly throughout the story. You come to fear and almost loathe the Showman for what he is trying to do, while at the same time rooting for Steven to make the right choices when he needs to.
It wouldn’t be fair to not include in the review here, the definitive elements of the 20th Anniversary Edition of The Last Temptation. While the art has been fully remastered in brilliant color, the most interesting additions are the reprinted correspondence between Gaiman and Cooper and the original outlines and scripts of the book by Gaiman. It was wonderful to see how this collaboration was born, and solidified by such diverse artists half a world away. You can truly see the passion both had for this work and the love and creativity flowing off the pages as it all came together.
I would highly recommend this book along any other coming of age stories for tweens and teens. The horror and macabre elements will turn some off, but will open up the lessons of the story to a whole new audience that might usually avoid these themes as well. The wonderful thing about The Last Temptation is that this release is times perfectly with Halloween, making it the perfect gift or story at the end of the month!
Five out of five stars.
Many thanks to Dynamite Entertainment, NetGalley, and Neil Gaiman, Alice Cooper, Michael Zulli, and Dave McKean for the opportunity to read and review The Last Temptation early in exchange for an honest review. The final version will be released on October 21, 2014.
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