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ARC Review – The Last Temptation 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition by Neil Gaiman, Alice Cooper, Michael Zulli, and Dave McKean

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 EntertainmentNetGalley, 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.

The Last Temptation 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition on Amazon

The Last Temptation 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition on Barnes and Noble

The Last Temptation 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition on Goodreads

The Last Temptation 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition on LibraryThing

The Last Temptation 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition on Shelfari

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2014 in Reviews

 

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ARC Review — White Death by Robbie Morrison & Charlie Adlard

White Death

White Death written by Robbie Morrison with art by Charlie Adlard. September, 2014. Image Comics, 104 p. $14.99 ISBN:9781632151421.

“For four years, The Great War, World War One, raged across the planet. Millions were sent to their deaths in pointless battles. The Italian Front stretched along the borders of Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empires, in treacherous mountain regions. In the last months of 1916, a private in the Italian Bersaglieri returns to his childhood home in the Trentino mountain range to find it no longer a place of adventure and wonder as it was in his youth, but a place of death and despair. Amongst the weapons of both armies, none is more feared than the White Death: thundering avalanches deliberately caused by cannon fire… which, like war itself, consume everything in their path...” — Publisher’s Description

This is one of those rare times when I am a little lost for words about a book.  Honestly, I’ve been sitting here for a while thinking about how I wanted to approach this review.  White Death was a wonderfully drawn book, with an intriguing story, but I feel that there was something missing — something more I needed, but I cannot put my finger on it.

White Death was written by Robbie Morrison after the discovery of two bodies in the Italian Alps that were identified as young Austro-Hungarian soldiers from the First World War.  This is one of the few graphic novels that I know of that deal with World War I, and to my knowledge very few books at all cover this theater of the conflict.  In 1915-1916, over the course of five grueling battles, approximately 60,000-100,000 soldiers were killed in the Italian Alps by avalanches caused by enemy shells — The White Death. This is the story of those battles.

Morrison vividly brings to life the despair, heartbreak, and tragedy of war — using the avalanche itself as a metaphor in the sense that it is a terrifying force that consumes everything in front of it without mercy.  The raw storytelling, both in the trenches and in the towns and hospitals behind the lines remind us that war, no matter where or when is indeed hell.  There is a brother against brother element that you do not generally associate with World War I, but in retrospect, I see how this is true of any war.  Also very poignant is the way in which PTSD, or as it was then called – “Shell Shock” was dealt with.  Quite terrifying.

What really stood out to me, however, about White Death was the artwork of Charlie Adlard.  I am relatively new to graphic novels so this is my first time seeing Adlard’s work, even though I have a huge compendium of The Walking Dead waiting on my bookshelf!  As a result I came in unbiased to what he describes in his introduction as nothing less than a landmark book in his career.  The artwork was stunning and masterfully done in a way that was able to capture the intensity and horror of war that Morrison put into words.  The “charcoal and chalk dust” Adlard mentions in the same introduction to White Death seemed to jump off the pages, even through my e-reader, to make you feel dirty, cold, and sweaty with the troops all at the same time.  No other graphic novel has had that effect on me.

My only real criticisms of White Death, and those parts that seemed to have me wanting more were in the fact that I was having difficulty about half way through the book keeping some characters straight in my head, and therefore fully understanding the action and motivations and feelings being expressed.  This could be from my own lack of experience with the genre, but I feel that more detail in the story and the art was needed here.  Also, there seems to be so much potential to have provided more build up and more continuation of the story. I feel as though we were dropped right into the middle of an epic novel and  pulled back out before it was over.  This comes from my not knowing anything about this aspect of World War I, and because of White Death wanting to know so much more!  In a way then, I suppose it served a purpose.

All in all this was an excellent book, and one that makes it easy to see why it has been listed on a few “essential” graphic novel lists.  I highly recommend it to mature young adult and adult readers for the intense story, graphic nature or the art, and the brief nudity and adult themes in a few scenes and panels.

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Image ComicsNetGalley, and Robbie Morrison & Charlie Adlard for the opportunity to read White Death in exchange for an honest review.

White Death on Amazon

White Death  on Barnes and Noble

White Death  on Goodreads

White Death  on LibraryThing

White Death  on Shelfari

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2014 in Reviews

 

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