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.
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.)