Review – Back to the Future: Citizen Brown #1 (of 5) (IDW Publishing)

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer(s): Bob Gale, Erik Burnham
Artist: Alan Robinson
Release Date: 11th May, 2016

You’re doing it aren’t you? I can practically hear it. The orchestra in your head is playing that gloriously iconic fanfare – I don’t blame you. Any time anyone mentions Back to the Future, it plays in my head too. Although you may want to turn yours down a little – bit loud ‘n’aw, y’know?

Unlike the previous comic outing for the venerable franchise, this new arc isn’t going to be creating completely new stories that flesh out and spin-off from the films – instead, it’s based upon a pre-existing one from the well-received Telltale Games-developed point’n’click’o’rama (that’s the technical term) from back in 2011.

As to ‘who executed it better?’ (the Ilyn Payne edition of that popular celebrity magazine bit), whilst there is quite simply nothing inherently wrong with this here adaptation, stories designed for interactive mediums (particularly the good’uns, and this is Telltale we’re talking about here) almost invariably lose something in the translation. There was a curious joy to being able to discover 1930’s Hill Valley for yourself in the game; to being able to make your own (albeit controlled) dialogue choices, and still have them deliciously BttF-flavoured; to being able to have the story unfold at your own pace, with your decisions making meaningful impact on the story. Rendering the story static does strip it of some of its intrigue.

But that’s my experience with it – if you’ve never played the game, and have no interest in doing so, but still love BttF, you will enjoy this story. It’s a delightful scenario that feels fresh yet familiar, and manages to subtly but successfully capitalise on the conflict between authority and the increasingly liberated populace that has ended up characterising the 1930s. It never looks to smash you over the head with an unexpected history lesson, but the attention to period detail and the deftness with which it’s interwoven into the story are superb.

Robinson’s art – whichever camp you end up falling in – is pretty exceptional, a few hiccups in the rendering of Marty’s face in close-up aside. There’s some lovely flourishes in the framing of scenes behind the closed doors of the speakeasy that serves as one of the story’s MacGuffins, and his antagonists are plucked straight from classic Hollywood gangster flicks, albeit with a signature BttF twist, which is eminently pleasing.

Overall, even with the game-to-comic transition inevitably shedding some of what made the game such a treat, there’s still a lot for fans of Doc and Marty’s escapades to enjoy here. And let’s face it – at this stage, there’s not too many people who count themselves outside of that number. So yeah, one to pick up, for all and sundry.

Rating: 4/5.

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RSavThe Writer of this piece was: Ross Sweeney
Ross tweets from @Rostopher24

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