If you read this site regularly, you may have noticed that I’m a pretty big Transformers fan. It’s definitely the geekiest of all my geeky interests, and therefore is something I’m not always likely to admit, although it definitely has some serious upsides. For instance, the right girl will think a room that has some transforming robot toys in it is pretty cool (note: this is a pretty rare occurrence). Additionally, it’s because of my love for Transformers that a few years ago I was compelled to order a graphic novel called Incredible Change-Bots. I hadn’t heard of Jeffrey Brown (its author) at the time, I just knew that an indie comic parody of my beloved robots in disguise would probably make for a pretty good purchase.
It turns out that not only did I love that book, but I cared enough to learn more about its author. That led me to reading such wonderful, amazing and often agonizingly personal graphic novels as Clumsy, Unlikely, Sulk and Funny Misshapen Body. Jeffrey Brown, along with cartoonists like Jeff Lemire and Brian Lee O’Malley, started something of an indie comics revolution for me. They made me look at the back end of the Previews catalog a lot harder.
How could I pass up, then, Jeffrey Brown’s return to the world of Incredible Change-Bots with this appropriately-titled sequel? This book picks up where the first graphic novel left off; the Change-Bots have left Earth, presumably forever. Evil Fantasticon Shootertron was thought dead, killed in final battle with his Awesomebot nemesis Big Rig. In actuality, he awakens in a field of rubble with no memory of who he is, how he got there, or why he changes into a gun when he sleeps. Of course in short time the Change-Bots’ ship crash-lands on Earth once more and Shootertron regains his memory, leading to typical Transformers-style carnage made all the awesomer by Brown’s sharp wit.
Incredible Change-Bots Two may be the most I’ve laughed out loud at a graphic novel in some time. Jeffrey Brown has a keen sense of comedy here, seemingly hitting all the right beats appropriate for his target. Many different types of Transformers stories become fodder — the overly dramatic plots and dialog of the Generation 1 cartoon series (a character even uses mind control chips!), the wacky aesthetic sense of the Michael Bay movies (Awesomebot Hoser gets a sleek, wiry redesign for no good reason) and even the super-serious politics of the current IDW Transformers comic. No doubt Brown knows his source material and how to exploit it.
I think Change-Bots Two tops the first one, though, in that it seems to contain more humor that non-Transformers fans might find appealing. The first one is no comic slouch, but I feel this second installment outdoes itself. The fun Brown has with melodrama here, for instance, should be hilarious to anyone who’s even somewhat familiar with action/adventure/sci-fi genres. Consider, for instance, the sensational breakdown between the philosophies of the Awesomebots and Fantasticons on pages two and three.
The Awesomebots… prided themselves on their leadership and tried to make Electronocybercircuitron the greatest world on the planet! The Fantasticons… were power-hungry and wished to take control from the Awesomebots in order to make their beloved Electronocybercircuitron the greatest planet that ever lived!
It’s not just the story that excels. Brown’s art has developed quite a bit since Clumsy. It still maintains its lovably simple style, but Brown’s gained a sharper sense of geometry and consistency since his earliest outings. Honestly, though, my favorite part about how this book looks is the coloring. Brown typically works in black and white, and it’s possible that colors would only detract from his usual storytelling, but here the lush visuals really help sell the parody elements… what are Transformers if not gaudily-colored masses of blocks? (By the way, there’s an amazing joke in here about Legos.)
New readers should be aware that by and large Incredible Change-Bots is not representative of all Jeffrey Brown’s work, but it is a fantastic and hilarious project seemingly made for people like me. I think any comic fans intrigued by the concept of a Transformers parody ought to give this book a look. Beyond that, I think comic fans in general should do themselves a favor and find a copy of Clumsy if they’ve yet to read it. There’s a fair chance that Brown’s personal stories will move you significantly. How lucky are we that he’s also taken to writing graphic novels about giant robots named Microwave and Balls?
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more