Vampires aren’t just popular in American fiction; they’re popular in manga too, with such series as Vampire Hunter D and Vampire Knight, to give only two examples. THE REFORMED, then, is an American-made manga, also known as an OEL manga. While it sticks with many basic principles in vampiric storytelling --- like brooding male vampires and large, gothic mansions --- it never feels trite. In fact, it stands out for its lovely atmospheric art and interesting storyline. All in all, it’s a gratifying read.
Christopher Hart, the writer, describes the book this way: “Can a vampire ever find redemption? Can a vampire ever be forgiven? Giancarlo is a vampire and a cold-blooded killer by nature, until he meets the woman who would be his next victim and sees something in her that causes him to spare her life.… And this, his first act of kindness, could spell his doom. Love, it seems, is not meant for vampires.”
Well, why not? Giancarlo, the handsome but up until now very dangerous lead, falls in love with the human woman, Jenny, one night after she’s attacked by a thug. Despite possibly being close to death, Jenny remains calmly brave. She’s soft-looking but strong, which seems to impress Giancarlo, who is strong but perhaps soft-hearted. In the midst of a gritty horror story, there’s a tenderness between them.
And, in the midst of their relationship, a slew of murders takes place to keep the plot going. Giancarlo, despite being innocent of these crimes, is being blamed. Since the killings look like the work of a vampire, it’s easy to point fingers at him. However, there’s another monster out there --- this time a truly evil one --- who’s doing the work. And this monster will go after Jenny to get to Giancarlo, the real goal.
One of the strongest points of THE REFORMED has to be its artwork. While Hart is an artist himself and has published books on manga art, the task of drawing THE REFORMED went to Anzu. Hart explained it was his busy schedule that kept him from drawing it himself, and artist Anzu, who is from Singapore, was the one brought onboard to do the art. She was an excellent choice and a perfect match for the story. Her beautiful work is lush, dark and opulent all at once, with a clear manga style to it. There’s definitely some gore in here, but it doesn’t go over the top or feel too extreme. It’s expected there will be at least some gore in a story that stars vampires and a serial killer on the loose.
THE REFORMED may be on ground well-traveled, but don’t hold that against it. This is a good read for fans of vampires and fans of manga, as well as people who are just fans of a fun story and great artwork.
Reviewed by Danica Davidson on May 27, 2008