Rogue Element #127: In Defense of ‘Back to the Future: Part III’

By Avril Brown

Recently a good friend and most excellent writer wrote a fantastic article on the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy, in particular the second installment and how it helped shape the series. The essay is quite the enjoyable read not only for the obvious love and passion he feels towards these iconic films, but for the thought-provoking nature of his interpretations.

However, I have to strongly object to the shade thrown towards ‘Part III.’

I have never understood the lack of love for the final piece of this time-traveling trilogy. What is not to adore about this movie? We’ve got Old West adventure, romance, great humor, new takes on familiar lines, a new milestone in an unbreakable friendship and one of the best happy endings to a movie ever. ‘Part III’ was the perfect wrap up to an ageless series, and it deserves some respect.

While my first experience with ‘Part II’ gave my little seven-year-old brain a bit of a time travel headache (hell, even the series title confused me at first; how does one go back to the future if the future is ahead?), I remember ‘Part III’ as being non-stop fun. Marty literally hit the ground running as soon as he arrived in 1885, between the Indians, the bear and later being dragged through the town square by his neck; you could tell right away this was going to be one hell of a final ride.

Now that I’m a little older I can more fully appreciate the delicate balance of themes this film managed to find. Of course, Doc and Marty’s friendship is at the forefront. You can’t necessarily call it an evolution; it was more of a fortification than anything else. Their friendship didn’t need to be tested; it was tried and true from the beginning. The trilogy allowed us to see all aspects of it from several different perspectives, and ‘Part III’ gave us the most bang for our buck. We get Marty and Doc from the past, but he doesn’t need to convince this Doc of his legitimacy as a time traveler like he did in ‘Part I;’ they’re already bros. Then we have the ‘original’ Marty and Doc, hanging out in the past, keeping each other alive and in trouble. Finally we have future Doc popping by for a quick hello to let his friend know that not only is he ok, but he’s living the dream with his beautiful family, and will probably stop by here and there for a visit and an adventure.

Some argue that the running gags present in all three movies are overdone, but I say they’re all part of the trilogy’s inherent cheesy charm. Plus, they were already repetitive by ‘Part II’ which is mostly ‘Part I’ seen from a different angle. ‘Part III,’ however, gives them new life and whimsy. Marty and Doc switch up their signature lines, with Marty uttering “Great Scott!” during a moment of stress and Doc following with, “I know, this is heavy.” Marty once again wakes up to a familiar face after yet another blow to the head (he really should get a MRI; his concussions probably have concussions at this point), only this time he has no clue whom this familiar face belongs to. Of course there was another dance, but this time the tuneage is provided by ZZ Top; try and argue against their awesomeness and you’re dead to me. Of course there’s also the jargon confusion, but ‘Part III’ has the best scene, and possibly the most hilarious moment in the series. In ‘Part I’ Doc questioned Marty’s use of the word ‘heavy,’ concerned there was something wrong with the Earth’s gravitational pull in the future. In ‘Part III’ a pissed off Mary storms up to ‘Mad Dog’ Tannen and tells him to, “Lighten up, jerk!” The look of pure bewilderment on Tannen’s face, and his cronies whom he turns to for a translation, is gold. Not wanting to lose face in front of his foe, Tannen nevertheless recognizes fighting words when he hears them and responds, “Mighty strong words, runt!” despite having no clue what those words really mean.

There was also an abundance of strong women in ‘Part III’ which were distinctly lacking in ‘Part II.’ Young Lorraine in ‘Part I’ represented; I have mad respect for a woman who is confident in her sexuality and isn’t afraid to go after what she wants…even if it is her son from the future. ‘Part II’ unfortunately dropped the ball, with an overexcited Jennifer either babbling to the point where Doc puts her out, or she freaks and makes herself faint, two times over if you want to get technical about it. I’m not going to hate on trophy wife Lorraine; I’ve seen people in abusive relationships and they get points for just surviving. ‘Part III’ has two, count ‘em TWO women who kick supreme ass. First up is the unknown relative who turns out to be Marty’s great-great-grandmother. From her first lines you know this is not a woman to be trifled with as she introduces herself to Marty with a strong reiteration of the ‘Mrs.’ She’s a married woman and she won’t tolerate any shenanigans. She also practically lectures this almost stranger on his need for an attitude adjustment and considerations for his future.

Then we have Clara Clayton, a woman of education, grace and violence. She makes almost being killed via runaway horse meets cliff look positively ravishing, hair all perfectly tousled and cheeks red from exertion. She latches onto Doc’s obvious intelligence, wanting to pick his brain about his science background and gush over their mutual love of Jules Verne. She also knows how to protect her man, put him in his place and find him when it’s clear love will prevail. When Mad Dog shows up at the dance with murder on his mind, she willingly dances with him to get him, and his gun, away from Doc. She’s not about to put up with his shit, though, and gives his shin a solid kick with her stylish, and pointy, boots when he gets handsy. When she felt Doc was mocking her as well as breaking her heart she didn’t hesitate to crack one across his face saying she deserved respect. Yet when Clara realized his feelings were genuine she again jumped into action, pulled the train’s emergency brake and ran to find her love.

One of the clearest indications of an excellent series is an ending is so satisfying you can’t even be mad the adventure is over. ‘Part III’ delivers a happy ending so well-rounded I was practically hugging myself in joy as I left the theater. Everyone survived, everyone is happy and in love, and Doc is still traveling in his new, super slick train time machine which means he can visit whenever he wants, so the Doc/Marty bromance is alive and well. There is nothing lacking (save for the poor kid they named Verne; he’d probably get beat up a lot if he had a normal childhood), so there is no yearning for more story. I remember feeling quite content after seeing that movie for the first time; actually more like thrilled that the trilogy ended on such a great note. And if anyone even THINKS about making a sequel or ‘revamping’ the series, I’m going to run a DeLorean over their face.

So do yourself a favor and watch ‘Back to the Future: Part III’ once again so you can see what I see: an amazing amalgam of everything that makes this trilogy great, and a truly complete conclusion. Doc Brown and Marty McFly, on their final ride into the sunset and into cinematic history, showing us how time travel, and friendship, is done in style.

CHEW 49-50

CHEW #49-50

Written by John Layman and Illustrated by Rob Guillory

Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Avril Brown

One of the only good things about coming back from a whirlwind European vacation is catching up on my comics. One of the only bad things about catching up on my comics is the ending to CHEW’s latest story arc, ‘Blood Puddin’, and by bad I mean good, but bad…it’s all very emotionally convoluted.


In issue 49 we get to see some more of Olive Chu kicking some supreme ass, with the help of her mentor Savoy and stepmother Amelia. While Olive takes on the Collector’s army one faction at a time, with the assistance of Savoy’s Belushi-like nimbleness and Amelia surprising skills with an automatic, the later is also writing about the foods she eats at each locale, thus giving Tony a trail of breadcrumbs to follow. One of the best parts of this issue, if not this series, is the glorious neon sign stating ‘comics are ridiculous’ hovering invisible but so unsubtle over the exchange between Tony and Cesar. When Tony proudly explains how his lady is keeping him in the loop, Cesar’s all, ‘She could’ve texted you the address.’ Nothing tickles me more than a person or medium acknowledging their own absurdity.

Regardless, the issue ends on an up and disgusting note, when it turns out that (hopefully) the sacrifice of Poyo will not be in vain, as him ending up on a plate was dear deceased Toni’s final reveal. As it turns out, to kill a ruthless, psychopathic food power collector, you have to eat a ruthless, psychopathic rooster. Go figure.

Issue 50 is The Fight. The final showdown between Tony Chu and The Collector is here, and it does not disappoint. There are weapons, badass moves, angry fighting words and a most excellent finish. Basically it is everything you want to see regarding the faceoff between the flawed hero and the hated villain, and perhaps a bit more than you wanted to hear via the final dialogue, especially given the very last page of the issue.

I am a happy ending kind of gal, so my knee jerk reaction to even a hint that one of my favorite series in the last four years might not achieve that goal is straight up rage. RAGE. However, I LOVE this series. CHEW brings everything to the table: humor, romance, action, powers and comic book ridiculousness along with the acknowledgement of said ridiculousness, making the book even sexier. My heart is already aching for what is (potentially? PLEASE Layman, say it ain’t so) to come, but I remain a loyal CHEW follower, and as eager as ever, particularly now that it is in it’s final lap, to see this series to the finish line.



Written and Drawn by Various

Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Two intriguing new science fiction series rolling out from Image…

As far as high-profile books go, they don’t get much bigger than a new one from writer Brian K. Vaughan. Add the return of artist Steve Skroce to doing comics work, and WE STAND ON GUARD #1 is pretty much a beast hitting the shelves.

we stand on guard 1

The story: in the year 2112 (which is surely a tribute to legendary Canadian rockers Rush) the United States blames Canada for a terrorist attack on its soil and invades its neighbor to the north. Twelve years later, a young woman who survived the initial attack on Ottawa finds herself wandering the wilderness and searching for her brother, who has been captured by the Americans. Conflict – and an absence of hilarity – ensues.

No question, everything about WE STAND ON GUARD is top-notch. Gorgeous art that tells the story in a dynamic way. Great character design. Witty and clever script. While this one may not reach SAGA-level heights of popularity, it’s going to settle in for a good, long run. But…

There’s also some missed opportunity here. By setting the story so far in the future, it takes some interesting ideas for how this conflict might play out off the table. I wasn’t convinced that this really needed to be far-flung sci-fi, because the concept works no matter when you tell the tale. Maybe future issues will address some of those concerns. And I’ll be reading those issues, no question. This stuff is quite good.

But when you talk Image and science fiction, you absolutely must start with Brandon Graham’s run on PROPHET, which has been the most consistently imaginative thing the genre has seen in the past four or so years. In 8HOUSE: ARCLIGHT #1 Graham once again delivers on what he has shown he does so well (not just in PROPHET, but also in KING CITY): build a science fictional world that is wildly unique.


In the land of Krev-Ropa, a young woman named Sir Arclight escorts her Lady through the wastelands in search of… something. We do not know. But what we do know is that the Lady has a head made up of tentacles… and that this is not her own body. Whose body is it? Why is she in it? Where is her body? The questions pop into the reader’s head in rapid succession. Yet at the same time, you sit back, relax, and enjoy the magnificent artwork that Marian Churchland delivers to help build this world.

This is a book that expects you to pay good attention to what is going on, and Graham and Churchland infuse it with so much imagination that you have no choice but to go along with them on the ride. I’m excited to see what happens next.



Written and Drawn by Jason Scott Alexander

Written by Brian Wood and Drawn by Danijel Zezelj

Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Two interesting new efforts from the Image offices…

empty zone 1

Writer/artist Jason Scott Alexander certainly knows how to set a mood, and he demonstrates his gifts in that area repeatedly in EMPTY ZONE: CONVERSATIONS WITH THE DEAD #1. Set in a dystopian world that is familiar – and yet still unique in its execution – we meet a young bounty hunter named Corinne who is possessed of a robotic right arm.

She is also somewhat possessed by the ghosts of the dead. They don’t want to allow her a moment’s peace… or a good night’s sleep.

Trying to fully explain the plot isn’t quite possible, but what I can tell you is that there is sex, violence, mystery, an unusual seduction, and an extremely unpleasant law enforcement robot in the mix. Corinne is mysterious, yet she is also captivating. You definitely get through the book interested in her and her fate. She smart and resourceful, the kind of protagonist you can develop a solid rooting interest in.

And the art? GORGEOUS. The care and meticulous detail in Alexander’s work is quite impressive, and his use of color is top-notch. A strong first effort.

starve 1

The best way I can describe STARVE #1 is “Transmetropolitan if it starred Anthony Bourdain.” A famous TV chef named Gavin Cruikshank is living a happy life off the grid when a helicopter from his network tracks him down and brings him back to the world in order to get him to finish the last eight shows he owes them.

Hilarity does not ensue.

Instead, Gavin must re-acclimate to a world that has changed in his absence, attempt to connect with his daughter, and deal with the fact that the wife he left behind hates him at an evangelical level of passion. Plus (and this is a SPOILER, but something that could really upset some readers) he’s given the task of making haute cuisine out of a dog.

There are aspects of STARVE that really work. Gavin is a strong lead character, and the chef angle gives the book something different than anything else on the stands. Plus, Zezelj’s art is absolutely phenomenal, the pages a true feast for the eyes. At the same time, the more unseemly aspects of the story (the dog, the shrewish wife who is so cliché it’s painful) ensure that the book isn’t exactly entertaining to read.

So it’s a toss-up. If the darker edge is your thing, I think you’ll like it. If you’re a card-carrying member of the ASPCA, you won’t.