The Reformed Vol. 1 (Del Rey)

Writer (and manga-style art instruction book guru) Christopher Hart and artist Anzu offer up a take on the classic vampire tropes.

170 pgs, B & W; $10.95

(W: Christopher Hart; A: Anzu)
Vampires are one of those popular culture tropes which, if you will pardon the obvious pun, just refuse to die. No need to go back as far as Bram Stoker and Bela Lugosi: I’m a fan of Alan Ball’s HBO series True Blood and the Twilight novels have certainly been doing well both as books and in their film adaptations. Plenty of manga feature vampires as well and now Christopher Hart, best-known for his art instruction books (for instance, see my review here) has thrown his hat into the ring with The Reformed, an OEL (original English language) manga series about a vampire who wants to reconvert himself and become a human. It seems that starting a new vampire series requires you to come up with at least one twist on the received wisdom. As they say over at tvtropes.org, Our Vampires Are Different.
Actually Hart’s bloodsucking villain/hero Giancarlo isn’t all that different: he’s rich, has great hair, dresses impeccably including a long black coat which swirls most dramatically in any passing wind, and falls in love with a mortal woman who inspires him to reform his evil ways. At times this series, at least in the first volume, seems to be a compendium of clichés from the genre fiction trunk. With that in mind it’s sort of disheartening to read Hart’s afterword and see that he thinks he came up with something original, but in this case originality is almost beside the point. Genre fiction is all about twists on familiar themes and this one includes a hooker with a pure heart, a Jack-the-Ripper type epidemic of dead ladies of the evening, a bishi cop with blond hair (which makes it easier to distinguish him from Giancarlo, since they’re the same basic physical type) and a “shocker” at the conclusion of the first volume which will surprise no one who has ever watched a soap opera. But if you enjoy romance fiction with a vampiric twist then this one goes down easily enough. Or as our 16th president is supposed to have said, “for those who like that sort of thing, I should think it is just about the sort of thing they would like."
On the plus side, Anzu shows a lot of variety in her art. She can do dark and scary, she can do girly, she can do gothic romance, she can do noir, she can do cityscapes. All this helps to establish the universe of the story and in fact her art goes a long way toward keeping you from worrying too much about the various improbabilities in the plotting and the overall similarity to many other vampire tales. The market for this one is pretty clearly teenage girls, who should not be discouraged by the T+ (for older teens) rating: if anything, The Reformed could be considered a public service message on the importance of using protection outside a monogamous relationship. And who knows, The Reformed may get more interesting in later volumes: many a series has seemed a bit patchy in its initial offerings. | Sarah Boslaugh

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