Review: Back to the Future: Citizen Brown #1

While I never played the hit 2011 Telltale Video Game, I just could not pass up on the opportunity to review a BTTF comic.  Maybe there’s a little anniversary hangover left in me from 2015’s thirtieth celebration of the film that to this day has me sitting on the edge of my seat with its tense, climactic clock tower scene.  Or maybe I hear those opening notes to the Alan Silvestri theme in my head when I see the slanted, orange/yellow gradient font. First off, be aware that this comic does NOT fit into the narrative for the other comics in the IDW BTTF license.  Wait, are you telling me that IDW begins a new franchise and they don’t have their continuity set?  They have never done something like this before.  Well, maybe they have with titles such as GI Joe, Godzilla, Transformers, and Ghostbusters, to name a few.

I apologize for the above sarcasm, but IDW continues to prove correct Kevin Smith’s “Fail Upwards” theory, one that states in entertainment an entity could do haphazard work and still succeed.

BttF_CitizenBrown01_cvrThe artwork is unique to the book, meaning that it will not resemble the video game, the CBS cartoon, or the actual actors from the film.  No worries with that because at least every illustration of the DeLorean time machine is dead on.  Some of the character’s expressions are melodramatic, though.  Take a look at Jennifer in panel five on page two.  She looks like she’s been pushed backwards off the edge of the Grand Canyon while trying to show fear for another adventure through time.  Also, some illustrations make Marty out to look either like an Asian teenager or a Prell model.

The story involves Marty going to Principal Strickland’s sister (I guess they couldn’t license the likeness from James B. Tolkan) for a newspaper clue in 1985.  Turns out that in the new timeline Marty created, Carl Sagan’s death caused major ripples in the time-space continuum.  Form there, Marty heads back to 1931 to deal with a young Emmit Brown, Arthur McFly, and young Edna Strickland.  Doc needs his younger self to use a rocket-powered drill to bust him out of jail.  (Grammar lesson: The vague pronoun works there because it is the same person.)  Marty tries to help Arthur McFly in the meantime.

Hilarity ensues, and the whole gang has a riotous time with their adventures.  A follow-up story related to the different narrative-based comic rounds out the issue.

This book follows form and fills out the ideal IDW model: lots of dialogue that fills out the explication, a copy of the original formula so that the book feels cliché instead of nostalgic, and no definitively unique stories to explore.  This book is as safe as the inside of an armored car, and nothing groundbreaking or new happens.

Therefore, Back To the Future: Citizen Brown will be a sales success.  All those readers who love the franchise and would support it with their money will buy these books only because there’s no better alternative for BTTF tales.

Unfortunately, those people will end up getting very little value for their purchase.

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Back to the Future: Citizen Brown #1 Adaptation by: Bob Gale & Erik Burnham Script: Erik Burnham Artist: Alan Robinson Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $4.99 Release Date: 5/11/16 Format: Mini-series; Print/Digital