Biff to the Future #1
Writers: Bob Gale & Derek Fridolfs
Artist: Alan Robinson
Inkers: Alan Robinson & Jaime Castro
Colourist: Maria Santaolalla
Letterer: Chris Mowry
A review by Billy Seguire
Biff Tannen is no anti-hero. The events of Back to the Future make him irredeemable, and Back to the Future II cements him as anything but a puckish rogue. So the idea of a Biff Tannen comic in the vein of something like Reggie and Me didn’t seem like it would work at first. Then I figured out the hook. Biff to the Future #1 doesn’t present Biff as misunderstood hero or try to apologise for his actions. It’s the all out making of a villain.
Biff to the Future #1 takes place in 1956 the day after the events of the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. We get to see the comic’s retelling of Old Biff passing his younger self the almanac before Biff wakes up on the couch of his home with a bruised face from George McFly’s fist. This is the version of 1956 we didn’t see, where the events of Back to the Future occurred but Marty didn’t come back around to take the almanac out of Biff’s hand. This version of Biff is empowered and we get to see the start of his descent from his perspective. It’s filling a narrative gap from the films that was never fully explored, and expects the audience to already know both ends of the story.
Throughout the story, Biff is a darker version of who we saw from Tom Wilson’s performance in the films. You get a sense of how he became such a jerk via an exploration of his emotionally abusive grandmother, but this isn’t a pity party. Biff still dishes it out as good as he can take it from her. Only through introducing the character of Uncle Lou, a truly reprehensible and morally bankrupt con man, does the comic really attempt to humanise Biff by shining him against this harsher light. Lou helps Biff take the first steps in the journey towards the truly evil incarnation as seen in the alternate timeline of Back to the Future II, teaching him selfishness and avarice in abundance.
I was surprised with how few comedy beats this story contained. In the films, Biff’s lack of intelligence and swagger of his youth made for some great comedy moments that I assumed would carry over to the book. This is definitely a story that takes his darker, Trump-like depiction from Back to the Future II as a blueprint. While I’m fascinated by that journey, it’s jarring to view Biff on the same arc as Orson Welles in Citizen Kane or Al Pacino in The Godfather. There’s a sense of entitlement that develops as Biff’s wealth grows and it’s a smart move to put him into that mold. However, that sort of story does for, some reason, set expectations higher to stand among those giants of the genre, and I’m not sure if Biff to the Future is quite there yet.
The art of Biff to the Future #1 takes cues from Back to the Future but doesn’t hesitate to give the book its own style. I adore how liberally Alan Robinson interprets the characters, and there’s a sense of fluidity to their expressions that gives it a real sense of life. The colourful pastel hues of the 1950s look gorgeous and are completely at odds with the tonally dark storyline. Robinson draws the grotesque scenes as well as he does the beautiful schoolgirl face of Lorraine Baines.
There are a few moments where I wish Biff to the Future #1 had spent more time exploring the mental process of Biff’s journey. At one point, Biff seemed to be at his darkest moment of the story, but it was over and done with so quickly, I don’t think we really got to spend any time in Biff’s head. A byproduct of a predetermined timeline for the story, perhaps, but I would have liked to have lingered in that moment a bit longer to compensate for the lack of comedy in the issue.
Wait and See. I’m optimistic about the possibilities Biff to the Future #1 presents for the series, but much will depend on how deplorable this story makes Biff in the end. If the big reveal from this issue ends up being the most interesting moment of Biff to the Future as a whole, I won’t be satisfied. Without those comedy beats, the villain story has to go all out to justify itself. It’s hard to tell which direction this story will ultimately go, but I do feel like these creators have it in them. The most interesting parts of this story are yet to come. Make like a tree and decide for yourself if you want to start reading Biff to the Future now.