Jeffrey Brown is probably most known for his autobiographical comics like Unlikely, Clumsy and AEIOU: Any Easy Intimacy (my favorite of the trilogy) — each following his awkward relationships with a different woman per book. After that, he’d done a few other books — sketchbooks and shorter pieces; his longest non-autobiographical piece was the superhero parody Bighead, which, sadly, wasn’t as big a hit with me. Bighead almost seemed as much self-parody as superhero parody.
Fortunately, Brown’s 2007 parody, Incredible Change-Bots is where he finds his storytelling legs when it comes to not writing autobiography. The story itself is a little unsure as to what exactly it wants to be (it starts out as if it’s going to be an allegory for the 2000 US Presidential election, but quickly drops that after a few pages); though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While it drifts from allegory to childhood-nostalgia to silly humor, it’s enjoyable all the way through. I think folks looking mostly for the allegory or politically satirical aspects will be disappointed; Brown doesn’t quite seem to be as clear-minded on those aspects — but it IS a good story, which is one thing a lot of recent satirists can forget about. So, while it might not be as sharp as some things, it’s a lot more fun to read and re-read.
As you can tell from the name, Incredible Change-Bots works better the more familiar you are with Transformers, but it also stands on its own as a piece of fiction. Brown’s simplistic (or, more accurately, faux-simplistic) style fits the material quite well — some aspects of the book almost feel like a child’s story being made up as he plays in the yard with the action figures, trying to make sense of the fragments he hears on the news without necessarily having a clear understanding. Brown has a good ear for the child-like and it works — even when he does silly, semi-dirty jokes in a naive fashion (for example, Big Rig telling his human friends that they can come (to the rainforest) inside him (as he is a Changebot whose non-bot form is a giant truck).
Brown’s best work probably remains the Girlfriend Trilogy, though this is a worthy followup — a successful work from an author whose best and most emotionally resonating work is his autobiographical stuff. I think if Brown keeps on this track, he’ll be really doing great work in this area, ones that can stand next to books like AEIOU in quality. Even if Incredible Change-Bots doesn’t reach the same heights as that work, it’s very good and definitely worth reading, particularly for those who were fans of his earlier work but felt letdown by Bighead.