The fourth volume of the ongoing Back to the Future series is now available in stores, and begins an intriguing tale that goes back to one small throwaway line in the first film, but adds more depth to the Back to the Future universe, and the McFly family.
During the events of the first Back to the Future film the audience learnt that Lorraine McFly’s younger brother Joey had had his parole denied. Other than this, we knew nothing about who Joey is, why he was in prison, or how long his sentence was. Hard Time looks to address this, making the release of Joey the main focus for much of the book.
Whilst the usual family drama of having a member released from prison after close to fourteen years would provide enough entertainment to fill a book in itself (the interpersonal drama and family dynamic between Lorraine and her siblings and how they react to Joey’s return is varied and engaging) things become more interesting when Doc Brown tells Marty to avoid Joey at all costs. This kicks off an investigation into why Joey went to prison in the first place, and leads to Professor Irving taking Marty back to 1972 in order to view events themselves. As is typical for a Back to the Future adventure, the two of them inadvertently become embroiled in past events when the DeLorean disappears.
With Professor Irving finding himself meeting a younger, mustachioed Doc Brown, Marty accidentally gets himself involved in Joey’s criminal activity, which involves Biff Tannen. The volume gives us a great beginning to this adventure, and explores how big an impact the imprisonment of Joey had on his family. Whilst there is still a great deal of this particular story left to tell, what we get is solid enough to stand on its own as a good look into the McFly family dynamic, and ends with a possibly dangerous moment as Marty comes face to face with a younger Biff, who may recognise him as Calvin Klein from Marty’s previous journey to 1955.
With just what happens to lead to Joey going to prison still yet to be resolved, and the possibility that he may return to a life of crime in the present (1985) it will be interesting to see what (if any) impact Marty and Irving’s presence in the past has. In addition to this three part set up, we also get a stand alone adventure that focuses on Doc Brown and his son, Verne. When Doc Brown forgets his anniversary he jumps into the DeLorean in order to travel to the future to get a present for Clara, as well as picking up some pieces for his time train.
Unfortunately, Verne has stowed away in the time machine, and ends up wandering off on Halloween 2017, where he gets a sack full of candy, and ends up being used by a gang in order to rob a shop. Thanks to his cowboy skills, and having grown up hearing about his fathers adventures, he manages to thwart the robbery and becomes a hero. Whilst this little adventure doesn’t add much to the overall story, it does give us an insight into Doc Brown’s life back in 1893, and shows us a little more of his family, seen only briefly at the end of the third film.
Back to the Future: Hard Time is a fun book that sets up for even bigger misadventures through time in the upcoming fifth volume. Whilst the fact that the story is not resolved in this book, and that it ends on a cliffhanger, may upset some readers, there’s still plenty here to keep people entertained and engaged.
Back to the Future: Hard Time is now available from IDW Publishing.