The Reformed

Writer Christopher Hart is responsible for more than 60 how-to books about creating manga and comics, including the incredibly popular Manga Mania and its many spinoffs. But I’d never heard of him creating any actual comics until now. (More on that concern here.)

The Reformed cover
The Reformed
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The Reformed is described as “original English language (OEL) crime noir vampire manga”, and the promotional text will give you a good idea of just how clichéd it is.

Immortality is his, but love never will be — only an eternity of loneliness, filled with the blood of innocent victims.

Calling the lead character Giancarlo, the brooding vampire, two-dimensional would be a compliment. He falls in love with a hooker, but his secret comes between them. There’s also a mysterious manservant and an aggressive detective who suspects the truth but can’t prove it. In his afterword, Hart describes the generation of the book. Apparently, the idea “what if a vampire had a conscience?” suddenly hit him, and he decided that only a woman could convince the vamp to give up his way of existence.

That Hart found this new and interesting suggests to me that he’s never paid attention to how vampires have been portrayed in movies, books, and TV shows over the past two decades or so. He brings nothing new to the concept.

The only thing I found surprising about this book is how disappointing the art is. The artist Anzu has been selected to illustrate the upcoming shojo X-Men manga, which I was looking forward to until now. Her work is flat and off. The pages are cluttered and can be hard to read. It reminds me of what happens when someone learns to draw from the outside in, trying to capture a certain look instead of paying attention to basics like perspective or anatomy or even what direction the light source is coming from. She does nice gallery pieces, but her storytelling is lacking.

When asked, in an interview sent out with this book, why Hart didn’t draw the book himself, since he is an illustrator, he responded,

I have an intense schedule. And drawing is very time-consuming. I’m a perfectionist…. I simply didn’t have the time to put out the books I had to do and add another project.

How much commitment does he have to this idea if he couldn’t make time for it? Although I’m sure his how-to books make him a lot more money than this will. As for selecting the manga style, Hart’s opinion is

The elegant vampire is much more indigenous to manga than American comics, in which he is an oddity, and not a powerfully charismatic character, which he had to be in my story.

Too bad that doesn’t come through on the page. Instead of mesmerizing me, Giancarlo left me yawning.

Putting this into perspective, I don’t believe that someone has to be a fiction writer or artist in order to talk intelligently about craft. (Obviously, since I do the latter — well, the “intelligently” determination is up to my readers — without the former.) But someone who purports to be an expert on how to create comics putting out something so aggressively mediocre and generic… that calls into question his credentials for me. And reminds me of the proverb, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)

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14 Comments

  1. James Schee

    Interesting review, books sounds like something I’ll pass on.

    This does harkens back to a discussion I had with someone a month or so back.

    They were making the point that its better to have a writer who hasn’t read a lot of a genre(in this case being superheroes) as they are more likely to not fall into genre conventions.

    While I thought that there had to be some awareness, or you’d be more likely fall right into those genre conventions thinking them fresh. (let’s kill the girlfriend! or have their secret ID revealed!)

  2. [...] Johanna finds much to criticize about The Reformed and Ed Sizemore compares two Mother Teresa manga at Comics Worth Reading. Erica Friedman [...]

  3. I just read the Reformed and came back to chime in. Your review lowered my expectations, so I wasn’t planning to buy this, but when I flipped through it in the store it blew me away.

    I thought the art is pretty consistently amazing. Some of the action scenes are a little rough around the edges, but even that carried off the gothic noir mood. It reminded me a little of a shonen Godchild/Count Cain. I loved it.

    It’s surprisingly well written too. I agree that it “sounds” like a cliched vampire story, but that’s not how it comes off when you read it. And yes, it doesn’t break any new ground, but it gives you everything you want when you’re in the mood for a good vampire tale. I’ve never bought a second volume of any OEL manga before, but I would buy another one of the Reformed and now I’m really looking forward to the X-Men.

  4. Alice White

    I think the art is not that bad.
    Actually, I’m ordered this book because of the art.
    I never bought an OEL manga before, but I found that the art of The Reformed is surprisingly amazing, so this became the first OEL manga I bought.

    In some parts,I’m agree with you about the story.
    But,there are still a hope that the story will goes better on the 2nd volume,
    so I’m still planning to buy the next.

  5. this is a third rate story that borrows far too much from other scores and is predictable and boring to the point if you have seen or read vampire hunter D or blood you know how things turn out. the art style is in line with D but not quite as nice. it also plays of such themes form some of Ann Rices books among others.

  6. will u write another?

  7. An actual illustrator

    “why Hart didn’t draw the book himself”

    Because he’s a crap artist with no skill or style of his own. I can only surmise that his “how to draw” books are popular because the art contained therein is of such a low threshold quality-wise that it doesn’t intimidate insecure newbies.

    Dear newbies, you can do better. Save your money.

  8. [...] The Reformed — Who would have guessed that prolific how-to-draw-manga artist Christopher Hart’s original manga would be so horrible? [...]

  9. why is this “manga” so much like Twilight?

  10. I am going to say that this is one of the best Manga I have read. I found the art to be simply amazing, and have recomended it to several people, all of which have also liked the book.

    The book is nothing liked Twilight, by the way.

  11. [...] The Reformed [...]

  12. [...] previously drew the American manga The Reformed, and the weaknesses I saw there have improved, although she still has problems with structure. The [...]

  13. I bought it because of the art work, the cover looked so cool! but sadly I just think it been….done. English manga authors just have a different style to japanese ones, although Frost was pretty funny along with some other parts, much english humor, still, I really didn’t like the story, it was just too english of a manga for my taste, but the cover is so cool! and so is the rest of the art work! (I’m just so done with vampires, then I picked up the book and what do you know!) the back cover I also adore!

  14. [...] The Reformed [...]

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