Sunday, August 5, 2012

Incredible Change-Bots


The Incredible Change-Bots books are an intriguing mixture of parody, homage, satire, and action-adventure stories. Author Jeffrey Brown obviously has a lot of experience with Transformers in various media, and his love for them shows. What he adds is a sense of the ridiculous that comes with following the adventures of anthropomorphic, shape-changing robots. His stories have parodied, senseless violence tossed in, but what makes them charming are the clever robot names, the wonderful sound effects he includes, and the snappy verbal banter that occurs between characters. Brown's tongue is earnestly in cheek throughout these adventures.

In book 1, we meet the cast and their social system. As the two party government of Awesomebots and Fantasticons devolves into bickering, combat, and the destruction of their home world of Electronocybercircuitron, the robots decide to board a rocket and find a new place to live. Along the way they accidentally land on Earth and decide to try to live under the radar. Of course, their boorish and egotistical interactions do not allow that to happen for long. Soon humans become aware of these robots and the US military becomes interested in the destructive potential of these warriors. A huge battle ends the story, and one robot is left behind for dead as the rest of his compatriots leave Earth to find an uninhabited world they can call their own.

In book 2, we find Shootertron, the megalomaniac leader of the Fantasticons, was not killed after all. Stranded on Earth and unaware of who he is, he is taken in by a kindly couple of farmers who befriend him and try to raise him as a good person. Much of this part of the story is told via an ironic and hilarious set of journal entries handwritten by the robot in a spiral bound notebook. Somehow, he comes to the attention of a scheming general who kidnaps Shootertron to either recruit the robot or dissect him to figure out how he works. Also, somehow all the other change-bots end up back on Earth, and of course another series of battles and bickering ensue.

These books' creator Jeffrey Brown is best known for his autobiographical, independent comics work. His works, such as Funny Misshapen BodyClumsy, and Every Girl is the End of the World for Me are very open, confessional kinds of tales that focus on his past relationships, his upbringing, and his life. Other of his works, including Bighead and Sulk, are more action-oriented, fictional stories that are not quite superhero stories. I have always found his art style charming, deceivingly simplistic, and emotionally charged. He speaks more about his work on the Change-Bots books in this interview at Topless Robot.

Reviews I have read about these books have been largely positive, appreciating the parody/homage quality, with some preferring these books to Michael Bay's Transformers movies. yo go re wrote about the first one, "The writing is what really makes this book, though, whether it's the subtle G1 nods or the broad comedy." Michael May praised the second book, "not only are the jokes even better, but the story’s more touching too." Aaron Block summed up his review of both books, "Jeffrey Brown proves that you can create something new with those memories, and that sometimes it’s okay to find that box of old toys in the attic and, piece by piece, remember how they work."

Previews, reviews, and more about books 1 and 2 are available from the books' publisher, Top Shelf.
There is also an animated video trailer for book 1 on YouTube. Check it out!

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