Written and Art by Jeffrey Brown
Can this androids-in-costume parody have the touch to reach its target’s audience, or will it lack the power to make a lasting impression?
Shootertron, leader of the evil Fantasticons, has been left for dead on Earth, while the remaining forces of the Fantasticons and the righteous Awesomebots leave together to find a new home. Suffering amnesia, Shootertron copes with his newfound family and life, just as the US Military comes knocking and the Change-Bots return to Earth.
If you haven’t guessed by now, Incredible Change-Bots is a Transformers parody. This particular book is a sequel, but you don’t need to read the first book to understand what’s going on. You don’t even need to read the fairly comprehensive recap at the beginning. If you’ve ever seen any Transformers cartoon, you’re good to go.
As far as parodies go, the story picks all the right parts to poke at. From memory loss to time travel to the very obvious branding on robots supposedly in disguise, every cliché of the Transformers franchise is picked apart and shown for its silliness. And for its credit, the book even expands a little outside to even a Superman parody as the amnesiac Shootertron is adopted and cared for in a Smallville-esque town.
But even with that, it’s still a Transformers story, and that’s the main problem. As much as this book uses the Transformers franchise’s tropes to make fun of them, it still feels like a Transformers story I’ve seen before. It keeps reusing the same elements the franchise itself repeats. How many times have we seen Transformers with amnesia, get mostly blown up, establish a rocky truce to be undone later, the government try to manipulate the robots for their own use, or so on? I just feel like I’ve seen the story before, and that’s because I had. In the cartoons.
It’s not that Transformers parodies don’t work. Just look at the success of Robot Chicken. But that’s where the next problem comes into play – its length. Unlike the short skits we see on television and flash cartoons online, this book clocks in at 144 pages. Releasing stand-alone issues would likely have helped the jokes from running too long and getting old before the halfway point. It tends to not speak highly of a book when you fall asleep during it, but that’s what happens when you wear out your humor.
The art is amateurish at best. Everything is drawn by hand, including the panel outlines where someone obviously forgot a straight edge. The lettering as well is handwritten, which only works when the narration matches notebook diary writing. Everywhere else, it looks like grade school work. As do the people and the robots, which are all very simplistic and flat
The coloring is alright. Decent shading and texturing on otherwise basic art. The coloring bleeds into word balloons though.
Maybe the idea of this childish work is to bring back the nostalgia of Transformers in our youth, to take us to the frame of mind we were in when we were watching the ridiculousness of giant robots hiding out as semi trucks and impossibly small laser guns. In a way, it works, but again with the length thing, it grows old quickly into the book, and you’re left looking at subpar art.
Simultaneously celebrating and making fun of ‘80s cartoons will always have an audience. Nostalgia is a strong force, and combined with our modern cynical nature, we can tear apart all the problems of what we loved and still love it. While this book has that going for it, its droll length and repetition combined with its poor art keep the work from hitting its audience. Had the series shot for shorter episodes with greater detail to its art, it would have been a much better work.
Overall (Not an Average) /10