The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

September 12, 2008

Book review: Graphic novel parodies those other robots

‘Incredible Change-Bots’

By Jeffrey Brown

Two guesses what this graphic novel parodies — the catch phrase is “More than Just Machines;” the characters have fun and telling names like Stinky (who incredible changes into a garbage truck) and Tredz (who incredible changes into a tank); and within the Incredible Change-Bots’ society rages an epic battle between good and evil (though in this book, we’re not 100 percent sure which is which).

The Incredible Change-Bots live on the planet Electronocybercircuitron and have two political parties: The Awesomebots run by Big Rig and the Fantasticons run by Shootertron. Things are running peacefully on Electronocybercircuitron until Shootertron decides to subvert the democratic process, steal governing power from Big Rig, and become ruler of Electronocybercircuitron. This, of course, angers the Awesomebots tremendously and they decide to fight back — with firepower!

A war erupts on Electronocybercircuitron that lasts for years and only ends when both parties realize that their planet is now uninhabitable. They call a tenuous truce and climb aboard a spaceship to find a new home, but the Awesomebots and Fantasticons can’t keep the peace long enough to have a flight plan, much less land without incident, so it is no surprise that they find themselves crashing in an American desert.

Spaceship crashes and flying robots who change into various vehicles cannot go unnoticed by humans (or the government) for long. The Fantasticons ally themselves with the shady General Deeyer and his army while the Awesomebots befriend only two humans, Monkeywrench and his son Jimmy Junior. Fighting among the Incredible Change-Bots continues as spies are discovered, Awesomebots are betrayed by one of their own and a leader is exiled. Will the Incredible Change-Bots destroy Earth as they did Electronocybercircuitron or will they learn the error of their fighting ways before it is too late?

The artwork in this graphic novel makes it look like it would be appropriate for children, but with PG to PG-13 violence and language (plus a little implied robot sex), this one is appropriate for teens and adults. It is an especially good read for fans of that other changing-robot story who don’t mind it being made fun of a little.

‘The Sleepy Truth’

Written by Jason M. Burns, art by Erik Valdez y Alanis

Suzanne and Thomas Watson are twins who have founded an independent newspaper called The Sleepy Truth. Mathias and Grant are two friends who have been recruited to The Sleepy Truth’s staff for their specific talents — graphic design and photography.

The paper, put together and published by these four teenagers, seeks out and investigates all of the secrets and mysteries (both of which abound) in their small town of Sleepy Hollow. Yes, that Sleepy Hollow. The Sleepy Hollow of legend is still filled with secrets in this graphic novel. The teens are busy investigating ghost sightings and proving the existence of Blassy, a Loch Ness Monster-esque creature.

When Mathias and Grant see Cornelius Crane (presumed heir of Ichabod) cavorting with an alien, Cornelius’ suspected alien friend seizes all of the teens’ newspaper-making equipment (even their pencils) and threatens their lives if they print a word of what they saw. The teens, not intimidated even by a suspected alien, turn to their public library to churn out an issue of The Sleepy Truth that exposes Cornelius’s otherworldly dealings. Cornelius retaliates by kidnapping Mathias and allowing the alien to dissect him alive. Now Suzanne, Thomas and Grant must risk their lives to rescue their friend and, with luck, their First Amendment rights.

“The Sleepy Truth” is truly a fun graphic novel. It has all the things that make graphic novels so great: mystery, aliens, monsters, kidnappings, super powers, the search for truth and a battle for fundamental rights. This story is made all the better by Valdez y Alanis’ fresh and exciting artwork. It’s a good read for teens who like spunky teen heroes who aren’t afraid to stand up to adults in the pursuit of truth and what’s right.

Cari Boatright is the teen librarian at Joplin Public Library.