Go-Bots as a franchise has frequently been a laughingstock. They were created as Tonka’s clear ripoffs of Hasbro’s far more popular Transformers, and were never really able to compete. They were the Mega Bloks of toy robots that change into cars. However, Tom Scioli’s approach to this story entirely about the Go-Bots was incredibly novel – it did not try to recreate a stock Transformers story or replicate their success. This book defines the Go-Bots as their own entities that still share remarkable similarities to the Transformers but are compelling in their own way.
Each individual issue of the series begins with a large panel setting the stage, and ends on a small panel focusing on a character. This is a microcosm of the entire book: on its surface it has a lot of action and bombast, but the deeper you get into it the clearer it becomes that this is a character study. The story opens in a world where Go-Bots are commonplace, and serve the human populace in day to day activities as well as events at higher stakes such as war. Go-Bots were built by humans to be robot companions and servants, which is a very different origin from the Transformers, who are aliens. The overarching plot focuses on the Go-Bots’ rebellion against the humans, focusing on a few key point of view characters to ground the narrative. The focus on both humans and Go-Bots really helps to add emotional stakes to everyone, as human death and Go-Bot death are given equal weight throughout the story.
The limited issue count of this series really helps the plot progress, as the Go-Bot revolution is over within two issues. The series continues to move forward beyond that, focusing on the society of liberated Go-Bots as well as what remains of the humans. Beloved characters die during time skips between issues, and the effects are felt tremendously as relationships are broken off panel. There is no status quo to revert to, yet the story being told has just as much plot as many hundred-issue series for other properties. In terms of its structure, the series feels like two distinct parts – the revolution and the reconstruction. So much happens between these acts that any description of the second half of the book would be massive spoilers, but both halves are both different yet similarly emotional and impactful.
Scioli’s art is incredible and helps the pacing a lot. He is a master of compression, being able to put over 20 panels in a page and yet still keep it light, readable, and paced perfectly. Each issue has a lot of meat to it as Scioli uses his paneling ability to pack each page with content and keep the story moving. The artwork is incredibly expressive as well, and is almost always dynamic. The fight scenes are occasionally a bit static but they are still laid out and choreographed incredibly well. The paneling is also experimental in its own way, very frequently instead of a grid of panels, a part of a page will be a map laid out or the interiors of a building. Scioli uses the space he’s given masterfully to tell this story, with not a single wasted inch.
Is it good?
Tom Scioli does an excellent job telling a unique story about a franchise that has struggled to be unique from its inception. Go-Bots is emotional and impactful from the start, and by the end feels incredibly tragic yet satisfying. The artwork is gorgeous and incredibly good at compressing the story without bloating its pages, and Scioli’s writing does an excellent job making all the characters emotionally resonant in some way, shape, or form. One does not need to be a fan of Go-Bots to enjoy this story, it stands on its own as an excellent standalone.
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