Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
As Transformers 3 draws inexorably nearer, I find myself dreading the conversations I know I’m going to have.
My friends will ask, innocently, “Have you seen Transformers 3, yet?”
“No,” I’ll reply, hoping they’ll lose interest and change the subject.
“Why not? It looks great! I thought you were into all that sci-fi, comic booky stuff.”
At which point I’ll either have to lie and say that I just haven’t gotten around to it yet (a tactic I’ll feel horrible about later), or tell the truth about hating Michael Bay movies and come off sounding like a complete snob. Which of course I am, but nobody likes defending themselves against that, especially when it’s true.
You see, my friends just don’t get it. If it’s big, if it’s blockbustery, if it’s got giant robots and it’s based on a popular cartoon from the ‘80s, they’ll go see it regardless of how crap it is. “I know it’s not great,” they’ll tell me, “but come on. It’s fun!” I could argue that last point, but by now I’m tired of the conversation.
I know I’m going to get this because I went through it two years ago with Transformers 2. I don’t want to go through it again. Fortunately, this year I have something with which to deflect the conversation into a positive direction. I have Incredible Change-Bots.
I passed on the first volume mostly because it came out the same year as the first Transformers movie. As I would later learn, that was my mistake, but as curious as I was to see Jeffrey “Every Girl is the End of the World for Me” Brown try out some fun, happy material instead of his usual, gloomy, autobiographical comics (and I write that as someone who likes Jeffrey Brown’s autobiographical comics, I promise), I thought that the Transformers movie would probably be enough Transformers for me that year. This was when I was just Michael Bay Skeptical instead of full-blown Michael Bay Done.
I caught occasional episodes of the Transformers cartoon as a kid, but I wasn’t a faithful watcher. Which means that while I’m not a fan, I’m familiar with the concept and – more importantly – the flavor of the show. And though it’s a parody, Incredible Change-Bots captures that flavor in a way that the movies haven’t even tried. It pokes fun at some of the goofier aspects and very gently nudges some current social and political events in the ribs, but it does it all with a wonderful, uncynical sense of humor that lets the reader have a great time while reading it. In short – and in direct contrast to those movies – it really is fun.
If you’ve read the first volume – in which the evil Fantasticons and the not-as-evil Awesomebots leave Electronocybercircuitron and come to Earth – you know what I’m talking about. You’ve thrilled to the race between the two groups of robots to establish their bases before each other. You’ve laughed at robot love and Shootertron’s assessment of why the Fantasticons always fail in battle. You’ve cried over the death of – oops. Spoilers.
But you haven’t laughed as loudly or often as you will in the sequel. And not only are the jokes even better, but the story’s more touching too. The space-bound Awesomebots and Fantasticons not only have to learn to integrate, but when they accidentally return to Earth they must also face Shootertron, the former Fantasticon leader they left for dead. He’s still alive, of course, but he’s lost his memory and is living with a kindly old farm couple. Or he is until the military gets their hands on him anyway.
I know Transformers fans who are as frustrated with the movies as I am, but feel like they have to keep seeing them because they think that the movies are all there is for them right now. I’m going to loan out my of copies Incredible Change-Bots right away so that they know there’s something better. That way I can hopefully have them back again when Transformers 3 comes out so that when my less quality-conscious friends say, “Have you seen it yet?” I can happily reply, “Nope. Have you read Incredible Change-Bots?” I don’t expect I’ll deter them from seeing the movie, but I’ll at least be able to open a conversation about comics, which is a lot more fun than defending my dislike of Michael Bay.