Over the past year, IDW Publishing has successfully introduced the BACK TO THE FUTURE franchise into their publishing line. With the film series co-creator and co-writer Bob Gale overseeing everything, their BTTF series as hopped around numerous timelines to answer questions fans have had since the final film was released in 1990. This month IDW released a new BTTF title, this time adapting the 2011 BACK TO THE FUTURE video game CITIZEN BROWN by Telltale Games.
The story begins in 1986, a few months after the Delorean Time Machine was destroyed at the end of BACK TO THE FUTURE PART III. Said destruction explains Marty McFly’s shock when a seemingly rebuilt yet empty Delorean arrives outside his home. A tape inside explains that the car’s “auto-retrieval” system sent the car back to 1986 because Doc needs Marty’s help. After checking the time circuits and seeing that the Delorean came from 1931, Marty discovers in the town records that Doc (going by Carl Sagan) was murdered by Kid Tannen after burning down the latter’s speakeasy.
Marty travels back to the day before Brown’s murder, and finds him in jail for arson. After explaining why he’s there, Doc instructs Marty to find the Doc’s 1931 counterpart and use an electric drill his younger counterpart invented to bust him out. McFly locates the younger Brown, and after Marty assists him in serving a subpoena on Kid Tannen’s bookkeeper (who also happens to be Marty’s grandfather), Doc gives Marty the drill. He busts Doc out of prison and the two are set to go back to 1986 when Marty suddenly starts being erased from existence, ending the issue.
CITIZEN BROWN #1, scripted by Erik Burnham, isn’t the best work from either Burnham or Gale. The story isn’t bad, per se, but it suffers from being a video game adaptation. I don’t have any issue with video games, but their structures don’t work well in comic form. While various objectives between cutscenes of exposition make games fun for players, the comic adaptation winds up a tad boring here: Marty learns of a task, completes said task, repeat. This structure knocks the book down a few pegs, and easily makes it the weakest of IDW’s BTTF offerings so far, which is a shame as the character work is top notch as usual.
Artistically, I’m a bit torn on the title. If I was simply looking at the art in a vacuum, I wouldn’t be that big of a fan because Robinson’s artwork is a little too cartoony for my liking. However, his work looks very much like the Telltale game, which works for this adaptation. I will say I did enjoy his Delorean design quite a bit.
BACK TO THE FUTURE CITIZEN BROWN #1 is, unfortunately, a step down from the main series. I would honestly only recommend it for fans of the Telltale game who want to see how the adaptation goes. Anyone else can wait for the new arc from the main series launching later this month, which Gates says is similar in concept but in a different, unrestricted continuity.