REVIEW: Transformers/Back to the Future #1 Assembles And Rolls Out With Some Strange Bedfellows

Preview Art for Back to the Future/Transformers #1 C IDW Comics October 2020

Transformers/Back to the Future#1 is a festival of great art, fun character work and good writing. It manages to balance light and dark with surprising deftness.

Transformers/Back to the Future #1

David Garcia Cruz (colors); Philip Murphy (cover); Juan Samu (art and cover); Dan Schoening and Luis Antonio Delgado (cover); Cavan Scott (writer);  Neil Uyetake (letters)
IDW Comics
October 7th, 2020

A Transformers-style take on the DeLorean from the Back to the Future series (notable for the date and time readout. Marty (a teenager in a plaid shirt, vest and jeans) and Doc (a mad scientist with grey hair) gawk up at him while lightning crackles in the background.

IDW indulges in some playful crossover work by bringing together two popular, vehicle-driven properties from the 1980s. If you think Marty McFly and Bumblebee don’t make a natural and nerdy pairing, well, they’d be apt to agree, but Transformers/Back to the Future #1 gets off to a promising and rousing – and unexpectedly dark – start nonetheless.

It begins with a gun-driven pursuit of Marty by some strangers and a recon mission by Ravage and Rumble. When the carnage-hungry Decepticon witnesses Marty and his DeLorean quantum-leap into the future, Megatron becomes convinced that the car is the key to the Autobots’ defeat. Ravage and Rumble try to capture Marty, only to have Bumblebee stop them. All seems to be well and good, and Marty sees Doc Brown off on his latest trip to the future with Bumblebee stalking his footfalls all the way home. But waking up the next morning in his own bed, Marty finds himself in a future that is not his own – and he’s not about to take that lying down.

Transformers/Back to the Future #1 has an interestingly odd tone, swinging between lighthearted adventure and characteristically witty banter and a frankly pretty dark storyline involving a Decepticon apocalypse in which human beings are used as slave labor to create Energon cubes for their robotic overlords. The balancing act is an enjoyable one; for every geeky moment of delight, there is a surprisingly dark shock. That’s also fitting for a Transformers book, one that’s marketed to teens who might know about the later incarnations of the franchise or have streamed or watched the shows and movies it’s based on and the adults who will fondly remember it all.

A colorful comic page from Back to the Future/Transformers #1 (IDW, October 2020)

Scott has a good grasp on both Marty and Bumblebee’s voices, but is especially good with Rumble and Biff Tannen of all characters, both of whom have a nasty attitude and take on an obnoxious life in this story that makes them lively and enjoyable to watch. And in case you’re wondering, yes, one very special car does indeed have a secret Cybertronian history that we don’t get to learn the full extent of in this issue (all the more to encourage the reader to pick up the next one, natch).

The art provided by Samu – ably assisted by Garcia Cruz’ moody and varied coloring, a sea of bright sparks and brooding nighttime shadows – is very impressive. Detailed down to the last botly nook and cranny, it’s not only technically impressive but uniquely creative. The humans are also properly likeness-correct, and the way Samu portrays scale, making those humans look very tiny and the Decepticons and Autobots enormous, is stunning.

Transformers/Back to the Future #1 does a good job of combining its two stellar canons to make something engrossing that works for both universes. What’ll happen when they decide to go back in time? Well, we’ll find out in the next issue!