(Dynamite Entertainment, 2014)
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Michael Zulli
Summary: Welcome to the world of the Theatre of the Real, where nightmares come to roost and the choice is yours to stay or go – but either way, life will never be the same. That is what happens to Steven, a boy who is afraid and confused by the hard truth of growing up. One day, Steven happens upon an old theatre boasting its limited engagement grand guignol. Dared to go in, he meets the Showman – a mysterious man who introduces Steven to a world that is derelict and terrifying. The choice is Steven’s, but the pleasure belongs to the Showman! [From the back of the book…]
Review: Immortality – is it a blessing or is it a curse? That really depends on how you perceive the reality of the situation. If offered immortality, would you take it and live forever or would you prefer to grow old with those you love and eventually die?
This is the situation Steven finds himself in when the Showman of the Theatre of the Real gets his hands on the kid. And being a kid, Steven isn’t really sure what he’d want to do. It’s not a bad deal, and it’s for free, but as Steven will find out nothing’s free and all comes at a price – no matter how good the deal seems.
So it’s impressive to me how with a story that literally spans like two days Gaiman is able to take scaredy-cat Steven and turn him into a real mature adult by the end of the story. For a pretty straightforward story about escape vs. reality, Gaiman does a good job about giving us all the info we need to follow the story without losing us in translation. It’s also a very straightforward 3-act tale: Act 1. The set-up. Issue one really is more or less setting up the Theatre, the Showman and Steven’s dilemma; Act 2: The build-up. Issue two is all about building up to Steven’s decision, the Showman enticing him some more with a sweet deal, and kind of getting to know the world around Steven so we won’t know exactly what decision he’ll make; Act 3: The climax. Issue 3 is all about what decision will Steven make? What is Showman’s true intentions, and can he really be trusted?
I won’t give away the ending, but I think it was smart for Gaiman to go in this direction for a story that ties directly into an album. Speaking of said album, Alice Cooper’s The Last Temptation album that this story ties into is pretty damn good. I went ahead and listened to the album as I was reading the book and it was a wonderful experience. I like how Gaiman is able to reference all the songs almost seamlessly into the story.
Not all were seamless though, there were a few notches here and there that drug me out of the story because personally I just didn’t think they made sense. There is a part where a couple of zombies are reciting the exact lyrics from the song “Bad Place Alone” to teach Steven a lesson and eh, it really didn’t work for me. It seemed out of a place. It seemed forced.
Steven as a character is someone you can root for, and feel bad for. He’s just a nice kid living in a generic small town surrounded by generic people. These generic people put him down, not all of them, but at least his “friends” because hey! Boys will be boys. And he’s being offered the chance to leave all that behind. Wouldn’t you find such a thing to be an enticing offer? As a boy though, you wouldn’t “expect” Steven to be able to make the adult decisions that he has to make in this book; but the kid does wonders. Not once did I feel that he grew up too fast, or that he should tell his parents about the situation.
This was his life, and his decision.
Zulli’s artwork is alright, in all honesty. I think it works for the story, but it’s a little too rough for my tastes. His landscaping is beautiful, the Theatre of the Real is absolutely stunning. And the Showman looks absolutely great. How he draws the Showman makes me want to cosplay the Showman, but really it’s his “normal” people that need the most work. There is a character named Mercy in this story, she’s supposed to be Steven’s age, but from around 50 years before he lived. She’s immortal, but she looks like she is much older than him when she’s supposed to look his age. I just did not see the sex appeal she was supposed to have. Obviously, this story is 20 years old and I’m sure Zulli has improved a lot since this came out. We all do. But during the time this was created, I don’t know if I would’ve picked this up from art alone.
The 20th Anniversary is packed full of goodies that are hard to pass up. The new 20th anniversary painting by Zulli is, again eh. It’s just not my cup of tea I guess. But the image is striking. There’s also Gaiman’s original letter he wrote to Alice Cooper with the initial idea for the story, as well as Gaiman’s original outline for the story. Funny enough, the “original outline” is also written within’ Gaiman’s letter to Cooper. Provided there are a few tweaks, you more or less get to read the original outline twice. The real meat and potatoes though is in the original scripts for The Last Temptation.
There are quite a few little nice tidbits of information strung about these original scripts that almost make them much more exciting to read than the comic itself. And oddly enough, the scripts aren’t really much more different than what the finished product ended up being. Really, it’s still almost word for word but getting to read the creator’s thoughts as they went through the creative process is just so exciting. And I’m glad the scripts, along with original inked artwork by Zulli, were included.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Temptation, 20 years and it’s still standing strong.
Final Score: 4 Immortal Zombies out of 5
Derrick is a born and raised otaku with a love for comics, anime, manga and movies. The full list is pretty long, but that’s just the basics. Stories set in space are his bread and butter.
You can find more of his writing at IndieComix.net