THE FLINTSTONES #1
Written by Mark Russell
Art by Steve Pugh and Chris Chuckry
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: July 6, 2016
Fred and Wilma Flintstone live in an era of wonders, where opportunity and comfort can still come from fighting wars and maintaining a healthy middle class. Maybe.
I’ll be honest, this is really odd comic with a lot of stuff working against it.
First, the grouping of books that represent DC’s new Hanna Barbera line feel a bit thematically uneven, to the degree that it makes it difficult not to compare them, but also means they can’t possibly feel like they have anything in common.
Future Quest is, of course, the book that picks up the sensibility of the original shows and just runs with it. Tidies up the edges, but still maintains that purity of creative vision.
Wacky Raceland does the complete opposite: it muddies the waters on the original show so much that it now reeks of misogyny, ultra-violence, and quite frankly, illegibility.
Scooby Apocalypse falls somewhere in-between. A recreation with modern sensibility, but still gets what made the original funny and endearing. It doesn’t feel as pure as it could, but it has its own groove.
The Flintstones isn’t a recreation of the original series, and it’s reading suffers for the comparison. It isn’t quite a rejection either, as it still finds humor and visual punditry throughout. Like Scooby, it does attempt to recreate the wheel, and brings with it some amazing emotional moments. But it what it infuses that Shaggy and the gang don’t is a sense of post-modern melancholia.
And the acceptance of that factor is what will make or break this series for readers.
Mark Russell is no stranger to satire, having helmed one of 2015’s most clever and thought-provoking books for DC Comics in Prez. That book literally becomes more and more real every day that passes, and I presume by the time the election rolls around in November, reading Prez will freak me the fuck out for its accuracy.
That’s not exactly what’s happening with The Flintstones. There’s a sensitivity and post-modernist self-reflection in the characters of Fred and Wilma that you not only don’t get in the original series, but you think totally contradictory to the concept of the caveman. Fred is even all those things a conservative leaning stereotype would be: veteran, blue collar worker, doesn’t understand art, but loves to watch boxing. A typical “caveman” caveman, right?
But what we’re getting is a sensitive soul, not really a buffoon, someone who wants to get ahead and do right by everyone around him. And he’s surrounded by these clues that what he’s done in war — it’s terrible stuff with terrible consequences — and it affects him. He’s contrasted quite elegantly to Mr. Slate in that regard.
And Steve Pugh backs that characterization up 100%, giving us a beefy man, maybe a bit past his physical prime, but still a looker with a very kind face and gentle giant sort of demeanor. His presence, although large, is never looming in any panel, rarely central, and in fact often lurking in one corner or another.
Fred is an everyman, but not a cowboy. Not a 1960s version of what a butch man should be, but rather, is portrayed with a much more modern sensitivity that Pugh captures quite elegantly amid the vast amount of environmental detail he puts into every last panel.
Every. Last. Panel.
It’s a glouriously gorgeous issue, and in that sense, it’s worth buying for Pugh’s pencil and inks alone. And the men — homo sapiens and Neanderthals alike — WOWZA. If you want beefcake (and I can’t believe I’m saying this), buy The Flintstones. It’s extraordinary.
Chuckry’s color palette does a fair job of feeling reminiscent of those old Hanna Barbara stills, but gives us a real pop of life, especially as Fred’s orange frock moves across every scene. And in that sense, it does bring the series back some of that fundamental Flintstones flavor, alongside Pugh’s renderings of the many different animal-based technologies.
The real trick will be accepting the tone shift, from outright humor to more subtle satire with a trace of melancholia. It may be too much for some fans of the original series and not subversive enough for fans for Russell’s previous series. But either way, it’s definitely worth watching. I have a feeling this is one where the series as a whole is going to get richer and richer as it goes along.
The Verdict: 8.5/10