Work from an original mind like Bob Gale, especially to the seminal “Back To The Future” series comes with a lot of expectation. What he makes clear is that this is not “Back To The Future IV”. “Back To The Future: The Heavy Collection” [Bob Gale & John Barber/IDW/312pgs] is simply supplementary stories to explain external structure of events that have already happened within the films. Without giving too much away which would spoil the surprise, Gale focuses on certain aspects and motivations that fuel many of the characters including Doc, Marty, Jennifer, Needles and others. Biff and his family structure are more related to the wayside interestingly enough but that is the structure of the villains in this world. Needles is the only one (as played by “Flea” in “BTTF II”) that seems to be an unneeded foil. He is just like any other bully whose extreme mess doesn’t match the brutish texture of Biff. Biff seemed like he always has ulterior forces pushing him into this life of the failed conqueror but he had ambition. Needles comes off as being just jealous instead of having anything more of a mythic structure. Doc, who was always a rich character anyway despite any eccentricities, benefits the most from this backstory since there is so much time with him unaccounted for. The story of the aspect behind why his house burned down, His infrastructure base with the government and the political incurrence of what time travel could mean brings together a moral question that Doc Brown has always debated. The other is the aspect of the fact that he found fulfillment in life in the Old West but also the ideal of getting back into the time travel game at Clara’s request. This shows a different motivation through and through with the scientist. Like all scientific progressions, it didn’t end up in the train we saw at the end of “BTTF III”. The full implementation of that story is actually still left in the ether though an adventure which reflects into the 2030s is actually shown and explained. The aspect that is reflective in “BTTF” and Gale’s writing is that events are cyclical and certain metaphors and family structures recur which definitely gives the stories the sense of the mythic. Some of the stories work without question. Some, even though they are brief, like Doc having to mend a momentary lapse between Lorraine and George is interesting though their story doesn’t figure as much into these volumes. “Back To The Future: The Heavy Collection” is an interesting continuation of a story from the creator himself which is interesting since the agreement between both Robert Zemeckis and Gale is that the films cannot be rebooted or remade until they are gone and buried. It is will be interesting to see if a “BTTF IV” ever comes to pass but until then we have these stories within the canon.
By Tim Wassberg
With “Bumblebee”, the first Transformers spin-off arriving in theaters in less than a month, the idea of backstory always integrates into the presentation of a focal point. The interesting angle in the “Bumblebee Movie Prequel: From Cybertron With Love” [John Barber/IDW/96pgs] (not the greatest title) is the Bee speaks all the way through. The texture and genre of the prequel is of course at pace per se within the James Bond arena with a British spy called Reeve and his female cohort/spy Diana who are always tearing each other down. The gist of the story is to keep the West from destroying the East and vice versa. Thrown in the middle of the mix is the continuing battle between the Autobots and Decepticons. Bee has a romantic foil as well in Diabla. The allegiances in this story are a bit like shoes, whatever fits best. While the odes to spycraft are many, the actual aspect of starting a nuclear war with a stray missile plays back to both the genre and its shortcomings. However within the greater context, some of the double crosses and subtle textures actually might make sense, especially if they lead to Bee’s eventual muteness and retraction into the VW Bug for the upcoming movie. While the action becomes muddled and the allegiance the bots pays to the humans is, for the most part, unfounded, the prequel is more just an exercise in genre than anything else, adequate but not a game changer.
By Tim Wassberg
The Transforrners, despite their action background, are also quite verbose. But this is never as true as in graphic novel form with “Transformers: Optimus Prime Vol. 4” [John Barber/IDW/160pgs]. Both the amount of characters and the politics that continue to interweave in their idea of progress muddles the situation. Cybertron, as a place, seems mired for millions of years of jockeying for power in the past. In this iteration, Optimus has given up or been stripped of his role as the true Prime, likely through the essence of arrogance within himself. He still has his backers but the essence of the Decepticons and their subjugation enters into play. However, their name itself implies deception. There seems to be a higher order of justice though in Caminus specifically through the Mistress Of Flame but even she seems mired in simple words. The one with any sort of active personification of work seems to be Soundwave who meddles in time for no more reason than his own narcissism. However, he actually goes and does something about his ideals to prove his point. But when it comes back to actual bolts, it makes a very small amount of difference except to paint a backstory. That said, partially because of Soundwave as well as Starscream, Optimus is vaulted into Aftraspace or is murdered…it is not really clear. There he finds Bumblebee who is stuck in this limbo sort of work. The Matrix Optimus still possesses seems to be their key out. All said and done, the denseness of the story does not add to the progression of mythology and, for the most part, the panels are crammed filled but not necessarily with pertinent information except for the most die-hard of fans.
By Tim Wassberg