If you love giant transforming robots, and sequels starring giant transforming robots, you’re probably aware that it’s only a few months until the release of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” the third installment of Michael Bay’s Transformers canon. Of course, if you’re anything like me, that’s not the giant robot sequel you’ve been waiting for. Instead, it’s this: “Incredible Change Bots Two,” the reappearance of Jeffrey Brown’s more idiosyncratic take on the giant transforming robot genre.
The plot picks up where the original left off. The Change-Bots have left earth, with an uneasy alliance formed between the Awesomebots and the Fantasticons. On earth, Shootertron – the evil leader of the Fantasticons – returns from his apparent death, an amnesiac and confused. At that point, he’s taken in by a kindly old couple and raised as their child, Superman-style. Michael Bay’s “Transformers” this clearly isn’t. When the military accidentally jogs Shootertron’s memory, it’s up to the returning Awesomebots to stop his world domination plans.
As before, Brown effectively parodies the tone of the original “Transformers” series. The characters speak with bombast, shouting slogans at each other during battle and making vague declarations about good and evil. As portrayed by Brown, the Change-Bots display the kind of human qualities most robots get to avoid: they interrupt one another, they leave awkward silences, and they irritate others with their stupidity and juvenile senses of humor. They all have personalities, but only one character trait, which they then display at every opportunity. It’s hilariously incisive, because it’s only a shade more ridiculous than the Transformers cartoon ever was.
Brown doesn’t make mockery his only concern, though. While there’s a joke on virtually every page, the story does serve as an action-adventure in its own right. Indeed, the plot itself is fully played out within the pages, in a suitably epic tale that even leaves room for a sequel. It’s half-parody, half-love letter to the original “Transformers” concept, and Brown’s affection for the material beams from every panel. If you love the idea of a transforming robot but also recognize its inherent ridiculousness, well, be assured – so does Brown.
“Incredible Change-Bots” is most immediately distinguished from the rest of Brown’s catalogue by being rendered in bright, bold colors, with a fantastic texture. If you’re not a fan of Brown’s more autobiographical work – either for its look or subject matter – rest assured that “Change-Bots” is something else entirely. The sense of humor is recognizably Jeffrey Brown, but this is about as far from his typical work as you can get.
With a few jokes thrown in specifically on the subject of sequels, everything about “Incredibly Change-Bots Two” builds on the original without being a complete retread. Although the nerdier references were largely exhausted in the first volume, there’s plenty here to enjoy and, indeed, its casual approach actually gives it wider appeal. If you’re planning to sit through “Transformers 3” later this year, do yourself a favor and read “Change-Bots Two” first.