Mechaboys by James Kochalka. Top Shelf, 2018. 9781603094238. 188pp.
Gene: This is about a robot suit made from an old power mower. It’s about two guys in a garage, one is Jamie — a blond-haired, gentle soul — the other likes to be called Zeus — he’s a bag of dicks.
Sarah: He has a wispy little high school mustache.
G: They’re seniors. They build the suit in Jamie’s garage from his dad’s old mower. There’s a lot to love in here and there’s some to hate, which makes me love it a little more. It’s not kid safe.
My favorite Kochalka graphic novel of all time is Peanutbutter & Jeremy, which is about a crow and a cat. And this is black and white and it looks like that. It’s not in color like the Dragon Puncher books or the Glorkian Warrior books, which I did enjoy. (My second favorite Kochalka book is probably Super F*ckers — it’s a hilarious take/send up of Legion of the Super Heroes. So good.)
S: I gave my niece Peanutbutter & Jeremy, and I forgot there’s a scene in it where they find a gun.
G: There’s always something.
S: She was fine with it but I was like, sorry mom & dad…
G: What was the one everybody loved? Monkey vs. Robot. I really liked American Elf. Kochalka is great. He takes chances. His art looks like he draws in a fluid, fun, natural way. But I like this one because it’s an awkward teenage story. It’s very YA with a “don’t grab this if you have a bunch of censors in your town” vibe.
S: I like those stories that combine the kind of thing that boys read with the life they’re actually living.
G: In this book, there are two bullies at school, Truck and Duck. They start making fun of Zeus. “Are you LGBTQ for my ELBOW?” I know that’s terrible, but it’s supposed to be.
G: And look at what Zeus does. (laughing) Isn’t that a great response?
Then they have to do the rope climb in gym, when our “heroes” are invited to a party by a girl. They take the robot suit out for a test drive and it ends up in an accident.
Zeus is an a-hole. The girls think Jamie is cute. Here’s three girls talking about how stupid prom is, and they form a group called The Fat Bitches and decide to go to prom together.
The gym teacher is fired for a reason he should be fired for, one that censors are going to love. And he’s on the trail of the boys building the giant robot. Then Kochalka sets Zeus up as the villain — he’s down on the comics Jamie loves, and they burn them in a barrel.
They go to the party. Zeus won’t let Jamie wear the suit, but it has a pull starter like an old gas mower. There’s a giant bear. There’s a speech where Zeus goes full evil. And then a chaotic rumble at the prom.
(both laugh, Gene ruins the end for Sarah)
S: This is exactly my speed.
G: It just cruises along.
S: You think some of that is in response to Shirtless Bear Fighter?
G: Doubtful, despite the bear.
S: I’m putting it on hold right now!