Off the Shelf: Neil Gaiman’s The Last Temptation 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

the last temptationNutshell: The Last Temptation is classic Gaiman, and classic Cooper to boot.  The artwork is still breathtaking after 20 years, and the added bits of script, letters and insight are worth the price of admission for fans.  A must for Gaiman fans, and for anyone who wants to see why the 90s were so damn amazing for comics.

Publication 411: Hardback anniversary edition of the Marvel Music issues from 194, and the TPB from 1995.

Story: Based on Alice Cooper’s album of the same name, this story about Steven (yes, the same boy from Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare) and how he meets the mysterious Showman — with very familiar eye makeup — who makes Steven a tantalizing offer: wanna never grow old?  Come join the carnival!  Steven  is rightly skeptical, and with some help from the carnival’s enigmatic ingenue Mercy, decides to find out exactly what that offer means.

Thoughts:  Gotta say I was only vaguely familiar with this story when I came across this anniversary edition.  Ahh, the 90s were pretty awesome.  Anyway.  Once I got back to it, it came flooding back.  I loved the “Something Wicked This Way Comes” vibe of the carnival, and Cooper’s wicked Showman.  Michael Zulli’s art (not to mention Dave McKean’s glorious cover) hold up, and the colors are beautifully simple.  No showmanship beyond The Showman himself, and Gaiman’s story.  None are necessary beyond that; the story rightfully does all the heavy lifting here.

Bonus stuff?  Yeah, it’s here. You’ll get:

  • An afterword by Zulli
  • Letters to Alice from Neil, setting up the story and it’s themes
  • Neil’s original outline for the story
  • Neil’s original script, with b&w pages from the comic interspered so readers can see the way the script progressed to the printed page

And did I mention this puppy is in grand, glorious color?  Not all the reprints have been, y’know, so this is a perfect way to see the story in all it’s 4-color beauty.  And it’s wrapped up in 170 beautiful, hard-backed pages.  As is just and right for this groundbreaking work.  Somewhere, Gaiman and Cooper probably shifted uncomfortably at the praise that’s been heaped on this story, but it’s deserved; The Last Temptation not only dissolved the wall between music and comics, it provided an interesting look at the shape of comic storytelling — horror comics in particular, but not specifically — to come.  Dream vistas, shifts in reality…they’re pretty commonplace now, but then?  For a mainstream title?  Pretty damn impressive.

Buy or Bust?:  As The Last Temptation is a graphic novel rather than an ongoing series, I’ve swapped “Subscribe or Shelve” with “Buy or Bust”.  And this baby is definitely a buy for all Gaiman fans, Cooper aficionados, and anyone else that loves ’em some good, “Devil & Daniel Webster”-esque storytelling.

This could nestle right beside all those Sandman issues you have on your shelf.  Or next to any other 90s classics; right beside Watchmen would be my personal choice, as Steven’s friend wears a smiley-headshot button.  Kismet!

[NOTE: I received a copy of this title via NetGalley — the site’s info has this title as being released 11/1/2014, though it seems to be available now on Amazon.]

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