Spoiler Warning: It should go without saying that there are spoilers in my reviews, so if you want to experience these stories and their surprises for yourself, maybe skip the rest of this article. Long story short: Back to the Future: Citizen Brown is a fun miniseries, and I think it’s worth picking it up!
Back to the Future was one of my favorite movies growing up. The movie trilogy as a whole was pretty good, even if things did get a bit stale as the second and third installments came out. Considering that the original film became an instant classic, it’s not surprising that the franchise is still getting attention today in comic book form. Some might complain that old ideas are just being rehashed or rebooted too often these days, but this is actually a continuation on the story from the movies, so I don’t mind revisiting an aged franchise for some fresh ideas.
it turns out that IDW Publishing has an ongoing Back to the Future comic series AND a miniseries titled Back to the Future: Citizen Brown. While I haven’t picked up any issues from the ongoing series, I was lucky enough to catch up on the miniseries (not difficult to do, as #3 just released today).
First things first, to avoid any confusion – Citizen Brown is not associated or connected with the ongoing series in any way. The two storylines occur in different time streams, independent of each other. However, Citizen Brown is a direct adaptation of the Back to the Future video game developed and published by Telltale Games back in 2010.
The miniseries, adapted by Bob Gale and Erik Burnham with artist Alan Robinson and colorist Maria Santaolalla, is based on Telltale’s game. Not having played the video game version of the story, I’m not 100% certain which elements are direct adaptations and which have been tweaked by Gale and Burnham.
Anyway, the comic picks up in 1986, a few months after the end of Back to the Future III. As anyone who has read time travel stories could guess, while the DeLorean was destroyed by the train, it still manages to pop up in Marty’s drive way to instigate a new temporal adventure.
I don’t want to get too deep into the plot – suffice it to say, Doc Brown is stuck in 1931, Marty goes back to save him, and things spiral out of control from there, forcing the two to try and patch up the timeline.
The story is entertaining, and seems like a natural continuation of the movies. All the right elements are there, but occasionally it seems like too much of the movies has leaked onto the pages. I’m all for homages, but a few of Citizen Brown’s attempts at being tongue-in-cheek meta fell flat.
In general, though, the characterization is spot on. I seamlessly added voice-overs by Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox in my head, as the dialogue fit the two characters perfectly.
Additionally, the pacing of the issues is great – lots happens in a few short panels, with only a few snags to confuse readers. Gale and Burnham succeed at introducing new characters and plot twists without losing the reader, although some of them are handled more sloppily than others. For example, in the first issue a subpoena suddenly becomes a major plot point out of the blue, without any prior introduction in previous pages.
Luckily, those hiccups are easily overlooked because they’re so infrequent, so I still enjoyed these first three issues overall.
As for the art, Robinson brings a simplistic, cartoony style to the miniseries that fits the tone of the franchise. While the character’s facial expressions are exaggerated, I think that’s in keeping with the characters from the movies. Lloyd and Fox are both comedic geniuses, and Robinson mirrors their iconic portrayals of Doc and Marty with a skilled ease that extends to the rest of the cast of characters. Similarly, Santaolalla uses bright, vibrant colors that add to the lighthearted, nostalgic appeal of the series.
In my opinion, issue #3 of the miniseries is where it really takes off. The first two issues are enjoyable enough, but #3 provides the first real hint of an ongoing story arc. Similarly, the seemingly utopic Hill Valley featured in this issue allows Robinson and Santaolalla’s work to really shine, with its clean, orderly streets and vaguely futuristic design elements.
As someone whose first love is superhero comics, Back to the Future: Citizen Brown isn’t one of all-time favorite titles. But having said that, it is definitely a fun read, and I recommend giving this one a look, especially if you’re a fan of the movie trilogy! It’s only slated for five total issues, so it won’t be a drain on your wallet or your time.
Are you enjoying Back to the Future: Citizen Brown so far? What do you like, or dislike, about it? Let me know in the comments!