Neil Gaiman (writer) and Michael Zulli (artist), Alice Cooper:
The Last Temptation (Marvel Music, 1994)
Gaiman and Zulli’s The Last Temptation is a three part comic which visually tells the story presented by Alice Cooper in his CD of the same name. The main character of both is a boy named Steven. Cooper fans will recognize Steven from Cooper’s previous concept album, Welcome to My Nightmare. It would seem darkness isn’t done with Steven quite yet, and The Last Temptation takes readers along for the ride as Steven wrestles with the specter of looming adulthood.
It’s fall when readers meet Steven, a cool, windy October with Hallowe’en drawing near. He and his friends notice an alley that wasn’t there before, an alley that leads to a theater that also shouldn’t be there. A theater that bills itself as a Grand Guiginol and has a most unusual proprietor (who rather resembles Alice Cooper). The man offers free tickets to the show, or rather, a ticket for just one. Boys being boys, they goad Steven into going inside, where he discovers he might actually be the show.
For the proprietor has a proposition for Steven: join the Guiginol and never grow up, never have to worry about or fear what’s to come as adulthood nears. Steven demurs, but in the days that follow, he finds he can’t escape the watchful eye of his tempter. The man steals into his life, his dreams, hounding his every thought and action. Rather than giving in, Steven realizes alleys and theaters really can’t just appear from nowhere, and he sets about discovering this particular theater's secret. And so he races against the clock -- for Hallowe’en is almost upon him -- to save his future.
The Last Temptation is a decidedly off-beat and slightly sinister coming of age story, illustrating the perils and fears that kids are up against as they face adulthood, casting them as extras in the Guignol. Steven may be vulnerable, but he’s also resourceful, taking his destiny into his own hands, rather than let someone else decide his fate. Gaiman’s narrative has a decidedly dark bent to it, and Zulli’s art complements it very well. Nonetheless, there are snippets of humor here and there -- note the Watchman-like t-shirt one kid wears -- or another who dresses very convincingly as Morpheus (The Sandman) for Hallowe’en.
Fans of Gaiman and Cooper alike should find much to like in The Last Temptation.
Neil Gaiman can be found online here, Michael Zulli here and Alice Cooper here.