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posted October 21, 2007
Top Shelf, soft cover, 144 pages, July 2007, $15
1891830910 (ISBN10), 9781891830914 (ISBN13)
The wonderful thing about the Summer 2007 Transformers
movies is that it marked something of an official shift by Hollywood out of the cheap entertainment icons of my generation's childhood and into the things that shaped the early memories of our younger siblings and babysitting clients. In other words, I and my friends were too old for Transformers and Go-Bots and all the other toys of things with the ability to change other things. It seems likely that a person in my age group would miss out on many of the subtleties in a satirical take on those kinds of stories as represented by Jeffrey Brown's Incredible Change-Bots
. Luckily, there are almost no subtleties involved, and it's easy to project back on the original items Brown jokes about here: the arbitrary transformations, the dopey coincidences of the plot, the goofy life lessons human to robot to human again. It's like one of those old MAD
parodies where they would be ripping into Dog Day Afternoon
or whatever, something far beyond your ability to see, but it was easy to get a picture of the item being satirized from the humorous material itself.
The story's much too dumb to re-explore but from memory there are two warring tribes on the planet Electronocybercircuitron: Awesomebots and Fantasticons. The former group is supposedly marginally better in a moral sense than the latter, although Brown seems to have some fun tweaking that notion, too. They inexplicably end up on planet Earth and undergo a series of battles and betrayals, sometimes intermixing with humans, sometimes not. And that's about it. What impresses here is Brown's more than serviceable color art, and the breadth of joke-telling he embraces. Brown mines humor out of pointing the idiocy of source material (a character named Big Rig turns into a Big Rig on Planet Earth), exaggerating absurdities (change-bots made of microwaveable soup and popcorn bag), character-based gag humor (Shootertron's over-zealous proclamations), and even standard set pieces (a robot who disagrees with the plan while the leader proclaims all agree with the plan). It's a funny little comic.
In fact, Incredible Change-Bots
is about the best parody comic one can imagine of robot changing toy line tie-in entertainment by a cartoonist better known for his observational moments. There's a low ceiling, and while Brown rams into it like 50 times he never comes close to a moment that transcends the book's origins. If you fall into the passionate or
the don't-care end when it comes to entertainment like this you're likely to be angered or bored. All in all, I had fun reading it.