Neil Gaiman wants to know what you’re afraid of.
In his graphic novel The Last Temptation, a collaboration with Michael Zulli (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Alice Cooper, one boy’s nightmares become reality when he meets The Showman (portrayed by Alice Cooper) and is plunged into a dark and hellish theatre.
Steven is walking home with some friends the day before Halloween when he’s stopped by The Showman and dared to go in his Theatre of the Real. Wanting to prove to his friends that he’s not afraid, Steven takes a ticket and watches the show. Until it becomes too much.
What Steven doesn’t expect to see is what The Showman claims to be his future – homeless, drug-addicted, zombie-like creatures that say he is a “natural born killer.” He’s warned that “it’s a dangerous place out there” in the city. Steven is then offered the opportunity to stay at the theatre and never grow old. However, Steven leaves to goes home, where the nightmare follows.
The Last Temptation takes you where you’re afraid to go: the unknown. And it doesn’t gently set you down – it hurls you into the abyss of nothingness. It plays on one boy’s fear of growing up and attempts to seduce him into staying in the old, albeit grand, theatre and joining the show. What does The Showman ask for in return? The boy’s potential.
With its first debut in color for its 20th Anniversary, The Last Temptation is a beautifully illustrated work that pays special attention to detail, down to the strands in the characters’ hair. It urges you to follow The Showman and stay in his mysterious world that he touts as “the only thing you’ll ever hear from an adult that isn’t a lie.” But when Steven visits the library to learn more about the old theatre’s history, he finds that The Showman may have a more sinister motive.
And he’s everywhere.
Gaiman impeccably takes readers on a journey that left me wondering what was real. Was everything in Steven’s head?
The Last Temptation follows Alice Cooper’s album of the same name and is an interpretation that is truly Neil Gaiman. Even if you aren’t a fan of Gaiman’s work, there is something to be said for the way he brings Cooper’s songs to life through the eyes of a scared boy.
A scared boy who finds the courage to fight his demons.
But are they ever really gone?
My single favorite moment was the last page because it so perfectly sums up the story. I believe The Last Temptation is worth reading just to see how it ends. (It’s my opinion that even the most discerning reader can appreciate the ending).
But the end leaves us with a promise.
We’re left to our own devices to decide if one choice can change Steven’s life forever. A life that may no longer be his own.
I would recommend The Last Temptation, especially to fans of Alice Cooper. It is a well-thought out story that I could find little fault with. The text is neat and clear, the art is worth a second look, and the anniversary addition is packed with extras, including the original script. The characters are mesmerizing and the world is yours for the taking. But just remember one thing; as Steven learned, nothing is free.
Written by Alexa Linger