Back to the Future: Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines, vol. 1

Summary: Back to the Future creator/screenwriter Bob Gale returns with all-new tales from the twisting and turning timeline that made Back to the Future a, well… TIMELESS pop-culture phenomenon! Take a trip back to 1985 and be there when Doc Brown and Marty McFly first meet, and then jump even farther back, to 1945, to witness Doc’s involvement in the super-secret Manhattan Project. Collects issues #1–5.

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Back to the Future: Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines, vol. 1, by various authors and artists 6.75

‘Back to the Future: Untold tales and Alternate Timelines’ is a collection of comic books that explore the events not seen in the ‘Back to the Future‘ films. Co-written by Bob Gale, who also co-wrote the original screenplays with director Robert Zemekis, it attempts to fill the gaps and answer fans’ questions.

For instance, if you ever wondered how Marty ended up meeting and working for Dr. Brown, how Calvin disappeared without Lorraine and George paying any mind, and how Dr. Brown financed his experiments, or paid for all the modifications he made to the Delorean after going into the future, then you’ve been served.

It’s not especially riveting stuff to start with but, unfortunately, you’ll also read about Marty getting help with his high school science project, or discover what happened to Biff right after stealing the Delorean in ‘BTTF2‘, along with utterly unrelated misadventures. It all feels like fillers material.

And, for some reason, all of the books are told from Brown’s perspective, as he recounts the tales to Clara and/or his two sons back in the 1800s. This further adds to that stop-gap vibe, sort of akin to those cheesy filler sitcom episodes where the characters reminisce about events we’re all familiar with.

The only story that was actually worth reading was also the sole full-length one, found in issue number five: “Clara’s Story” explores her backstory, and explains why she’s such a great match for Dr. Brown. It also ties into Dr. Brown explaining to her why he enjoys the past more than the future. Nice.

Thankfully, by then the series had settled on Marcella Ferreira as its main artist. Before that, different pencilers took on the various short stories – and they weren’t all stellar; sometimes the characters barely resembled themselves. But Ferreira’s art is quite sharp, making “Clara’s Story” a joy to read.

The collection is padded by a vast array of one-sheets by a bunch of different artists, all of varying skill and perspectives. I got the impression that these were all auditions for the series, not commissioned works, as some of them aren’t even fully fleshed out. There were a few inspired ones, however.

But this series feels more like product than a creative endeavour, just by virtue of its lack of spark. Given that it was released for the 30th anniversary of the original film, and that Bob Gale tastelessly did a whole paragraph of product placement for the series in his introduction, it’s hard not to think that.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t recommend it. The series has carried on since, with what appears to be fully-fleshed storylines, so it might have improved since its inception. But ‘Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines’ is one pretty ill-conceived set of books. I’d simply stick to the original ‘BTTF’ films instead.

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