• Last Temptation, The (Signed Edition)



    Last Temptation, The (Signed Edition)
    Released by: Dynamite Entertainment
    Released on: December 9th, 2015.
    Written by: Neil Gaiman
    Illustrated by: Michael Zulli
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    Dynamite released a collected edition of Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli’s Alice Cooper comic, The Last Temptation, in honor of the series’ twentieth anniversary in October of 2014. Now that hardcover is being reissued, this time in a signed edition with a signature page tucked into the front wherein autographs from Gaiman, Zulli and Alice Cooper himself. Aside from that signature page, the contents of this reissue appear to be identical to what was included in the twentieth anniversary edition, which was reviewed by Mark Tolch back in 2014. That review can be read below…

    The 1990's were certainly a grand time for author Neil Gaiman. Few of us (if any) in the circle of horror flicks, decent bands, and of course comic books were unaware of his amazing work on the wildly popular Sandman comics, and the rest of the world had taken notice as well, with critics heaping praise and awards on the series. The same could not be said of established rock icon Alice Cooper, who had followed up 1989's hugely successful Trash album with the mediocre, Hey Stoopid. Hoping to add a little something special to the next release, which would become 1994's The Last Temptation, Alice's label got in touch with Neil Gaiman and a creative partnership was forged.

    Discussing the French theatre of horror, the Grand Guignol (interestingly founded 100 years before this project) , and many other facets of the macabre, Cooper and Gaiman laid out the plans for a concept album and accompanying comic series that would involve an elusive theatre and a reluctant hero of a boy named Steven. By his own words, found in the introduction to this 20th Anniversary Edition of the 3-part series, Gaiman frequently collaborated with Cooper on the book and the music, ensuring a strong bond between the two, using the printed medium to get across a chunk of the material that couldn't be conveyed on the record.

    The Last Temptation opens in a small town in Autumn, on the verge of Halloween. A group of boys walk home from school, telling scary stories as boys are apt to do when Halloween gets close, much to the chagrin of one uneasy fellow...young Steven. Steven suddenly has other things on his mind, however, as a voice in his head directs him to an alley that he doesn't remember being there, and the Theatre of the Real, hidden deep inside. A rather grand showman (looking very much like Alice Cooper) begins his pitch, offering a show of unheard-of proportions to just one of the lucky lads...a pitch that is turned down by all of the boys except Steven, who is determined to prove his worth to the group. Handing his ticket to the sadly beautiful Mercy, Steven takes a seat and witnesses a performance that illustrates all of the horrors of the real world; the junkies, the killers, and all of the other unsavoury characters waiting to be found past childhood innocence.

    Of course, Cooper's showman isn't doing this for no reason; his interest is in Steven's soul, which he will take in exchange for giving Steven sanctuary inside the theatre, where he can avoid the stresses of adulthood and even hang out eternally with the lovely Mercy. But as Steven's agreement to this bargain must be voluntary, even if he's not fully aware of the terms, Alice gives Steven the option of returning later for "The Grand Finale"....and sends him on his way home.

    To give away any more of the plot would be to ruin the story for the unfamiliar, but obviously Steven does return to the elusive theatre, after a little soul-searching and some unwelcome visits from Alice in the guise of his teacher, parents, and a few classmates. Gaiman's story picks up in intensity after that initial trip to the show, as Steven battles his conscience, the fate of Mercy, and the slow realization of what Cooper really wants from him as he investigates the town's history and a theatre that operated long before his time. Gaiman's Last Temptation has many amazing things to take in, with wonderful characters and an underlying sinister vibe that fans will recognize from his more gothic works, and Michael Zulli's artwork seals the deal, delivering the story exactly as it should be viewed with a darkly colourful mixture of horror and the bizarre.

    The only letdown here, really, is the somewhat obvious concept. "The story wasn't a story I would have come up with alone: it was too clear-cut. God was looking out for the innocent, and the serpent was always looking for a way into your heart." are Neil's own words (again from the introduction), and that's problem. The story is far too simple, and much too indicative of Alice's need to put his religious convictions front and centre at the time The Last Temptation was written. Again, to say more would be to spoil the story, but at the very least it can be said that a little more of a twisted path through the forest would have been beneficial.

    Still, all things considered, The Last Temptation is an interesting piece with a lot to offer; to fans of Gaiman's, fans of Zulli's artwork, fans of The Coop, and plenty of other interested parties. Busting out a few interesting supplemental materials to encourage purchase doesn't hurt, either, and the 20th Anniversary of Last Temptation has some nice curios to offer the prospective buyer. A three-page introduction by Gaiman from 1995 outlines his involvement with the project from the initial phone contact to completion, told in the spooky setting of a wax museum. The real gold can be found at the end of the story, though, with Neil's original correspondence to Alice loosely laying out the story, followed by a more detailed outline. For those who want all of the details, scripts for all three books (including some original inkwork by Zulli) are included, as well as the original covers.

    Despite a rather basic premise, The Last Temptation is definitely worth looking into. This 20th Anniversary edition looks great, and is a pretty cool package, especially for a comic that most of us didn't think we'd see again. For fans of Gaiman and/or Alice, this is a no-brainer.