Monday, March 12, 2012

Piling On: Incredible Change-Bots Two

Jeffrey Brown's first Incredible Change-Bots book was a smart-ass but affectionate nod to The Transformers cartoon of the 80s, highlighting the absurd elements of genre fiction in general and playing up its more melodramatic and cliched elements to the hilt. It was amusing but entirely predictable, even when he delved into the sort of minutia more common to this autobio comics. The sequel, also from Top Shelf, takes that initial plot and goes to some strange places with it.All successful genre sequels, as they say, consist of making exactly the same movie over again. In terms of the conflict and plot, that's exactly what Brown does here, and he makes no pretense of hiding that fact. Instead, he throws in the Superman myth as evil Fantasticon Shootertron loses his memory and gets taken in by a kindly couple on a farm. Having his main villain vacillate between cheerful warmth and over-the-top ruthlessness is one of the funnier ideas Brown pursued in this book.

Brown also makes a point of noting that chief Awesomebot Big Rig (the Optimus Prime analog) is kind of an ineffectual blowhard. Indeed, he makes the further assertion that in most genre fiction, both sides employ extreme violence, even as one is labeled good and the other evil. Mot of the robots on both sides are pretty awful in their own right. Even an innocuous character like the golf cart robot Balls (yes, Brown isn't afraid to go for a cheap joke) is annoying in his own way. Everything about this second volume is sharper. The awkward lulls are more pointed and funny, the plot is even more arbitrary and fluid, and the colors are more vivid. The pointless love story in the first book is revived and it becomes even more pointless and funny. In Kyle Baker's book You Are Here, he said that he wanted to put a pretty girl, a fight or a chase scene on every page. For Brown, there's either a comedic bit, a fight or an explosion on every page. Sometimes, there's all three. One gets the sense that Brown's enthusiasm for this book was almost gleeful, given that he had the opportunity to do something farcical and silly, as opposed to his more poetic, weighty autobio work. It seems clear that these sorts of books make his other comics better, because they've only become more ambitious. A book like Incredible Change-Bots Two clearly allows Brown to forestall burnout while treating his audience to an amusing lark that still bears the mark of hard work.

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