Thursday, December 1, 2011

Incredible Change-Bots Two

Written by Jeffrey Brown
Illustrated by Jeffrey Brown
Top Shelf

The Incredible Change-Bots left earth to its own destructive devices--or did they?  When Shooterbot returns, with no memory of his past or his evil nature, can the military leave well enough alone?  Or will their manipulative schemes of world domination unleash a new reign of passive-aggressive hell on earth?  If Shootertron returns, can the rest of the powerful yet emo robots be far behind?  Can this paragraph stand one more question mark?  Find out in...Incredible Change-Bots Two!

Jeffrey Brown returns to his loving yet skewering homage/satire of the Transformers franchise just in time to remind us that even a parody of the characters is better than the "real" portrayal of Bay's awful movies.  Picking up where things left off last time, Brown gives potential new readers a brief glimpse of what has gone before and then rolls into new plotlines, meta jokes, and really withering remarks that were all hallmarks of the first book.  If you were a fan of the first Incredible Change-Bots, you're definitely going to like this one.

In fact, the biggest change between the two books is Brown's artwork.  While his verbal barbs and plotting remain the same (and that's a good thing), the prolific creator has worked very hard on improving his visual style.  Long-time fans of Brown who've watched his career expand to licensed properties and even teaching art classes know that he's constantly working on his style.  While it's still the same familiar framework of everything from Unlikely to Sulk, the proportions, depth, and skill are all significantly upgraded here.  It takes an already fun idea and moves it from a cool project to something you can give a casual comics fan and not have them complain that "the art is too primitive."  (I personally hate that comment, but I hear it a lot.)

Brown is never going to be mistaken for John Romita, Sr., but he's definitely moved past some of his autobiographical comic peers and into the realm of an artist that places emphasis on craft and storytelling.

The book itself has effectively three story arcs, each of which rise and fall into the next.  First up is Shootertron as Clark Kent, a stroke of genius that manages to skewer both the Transformers and Superman at the same time.  I love this section, and it was definitely my favorite part of the book.  The second arc is Shootertron's rise while the rest of the Change-Bots stumble under Big Rig's continued arrogant ineptitude.  This section features all sorts of improbable repairs and things to bring back familiar characters, which keeps the satire moving while the dialog freely riffs on ridiculousness of it all.   In the third and final act, the robots go at each other in a battle royale, complete with a new set of Change-Bots (ala the many incarnations of Transformers) that set up a great one-shot joke.

By the (never) the end, we're back the status quo, like any good parody.  We've had our fun, the joke has run its course (for now), and the characters are left to plot even more destructive insanity, should Brown decide to take up his ever-improving pen again with these characters.  I really like how each of the two volumes of Incredible Change-Bots tell a complete story, yet leave room for more.  You can tell Brown grew up on the same Marvel comics I did, where that was the rule and not the happy exception we see today.

If you have some nostalgic love in your heart for the Transformers, don't give Bay any more of your money.  Give it to Jeffrey Brown instead.  Despite making fun of the concept, Brown is far more loving and respectful to the material.  Incredible Change-Bots Two is a worthy sequel, and should be a part of your Jeffrey Brown Library.*  You can even get it digitally now, if you so choose.  Make an incredible change to a digital copy!

*What, that's not something everyone has?  Must just be us, then.

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