‘Back to the Future’ #2 Establishes the Series’ Identity

Back to the Future #2 - cover Back to the Future #2
Written by Bob Gale, John Barber & Erik Burnham
Art by Marcelo Ferreira & Chris Madden
Colors (first story) by Diego Rodriguez
Letters by Shawn Lee
Published by IDW Publishing

Continuing the initial issue’s anthology approach to the Back to the Future mythos, this issue features a pair of tales set in two different times: The first chronicles the story behind the destruction of Doc’s family home (hinted at in the first film), while the second depicts a specific moment in Marty and Doc’s friendship, prior to Marty’s initial trip back in time. Both attempt different things and mostly succeed in their endeavors.

The first story, by Bob Gale & John Barber, is set in 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis (following another framing device set in the Old West, setting up the story as one told by Doc to his young sons; something we also saw in the first issue), which explains how Doc’s home was burned down. It centers on the efforts of a pair of Army bigwigs (one of whom has past experience with Doc working on the Manhattan Project, as established in the second story of the first issue) to hire Doc to create a time machine for the government to help prevent the possible nuclear war being teased by the missile crisis.

However, the opening panels make it clear this story is set in the alternate timeline created by Marty when he went back in time (Doc’s narration references sending Marty back to the future), and the events in the story end up wiping it out of existence with the creation of a new timeline. As a result, this story has the most fun with the idea of time travel out of the series to date, and is the one which most closely mimics that element of the movies’ appeal. Also, the references to Doc’s time in the Manhattan Project (in the form of the general with whom Doc has past dealings and the way it influences his decisions in this story) helps give the series a sense of internal continuity and an identity independent of the films, despite being, for all intents and purposes, a tie-in.

Back to the Future #2 - pageThe second story, by Gale & Erik Burnham, is much more character focused, featuring a relatively minor plot (Doc helping Marty pick a subject for a school science project) that doesn’t really feature a major historical event thus far un-depicted in the Back to the Future narrative (at least until the closing panel). Yet as with the first issue’s similarly character-based first story, it nonetheless works as a depiction of Marty and Doc’s relationship, showing that Doc, even over a year out from Marty’s first trip through time, already considers Marty as more than just hired help.

Art in the first story comes from Marcelo Ferreira, and the second from Chris Madden. In both cases, the art is effective if not particularly exciting. Both artists opt for a more cartoonish approach in lieu of any kind of real life likenesses, giving them a similar look. Ferreira plays around with light and shadow a bit (the first half of his story is illuminated chiefly by a bank of TVs on which Doc is watching coverage of the missile crisis) and puts a fair amount of detail into the backgrounds of panels. Madden’s work is much more minimalist, resorting to solid color for most of the backgrounds. This doesn’t detract from the plot or make the story hard to read, but it’s not terribly exciting, either.

Nevertheless, this pair of stories successfully builds on the foundation laid by the first issue, continuing the anthology approach that allows stories to take place from all over the Back to the Future timeline (and, essentially, multiverse) but also developing its own internal continuity that helps the series stand as its own thing (and not just as an extension of the movies), while also having the kind of fun with plotting that only comes when a narrative has access to a time machine.

8_rating

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