Originally published at ComicsBulletin.com
(W) Mark Russell, (A) Steve Pugh, (C) Chris Chuckry, (L) Dave Sharpe
To be completely honest, I had no intention to pick up The Flintstones #2 this week. I thought the first issue was “okay” at best, to which I was not alone. However, with the recent announcement that DC will not be reviving Prez for a second miniseries to the chagrin of many, I felt compelled to toss some money in the direction of a Mark Russell project, and this fit the bill. I’m glad I did.
Russell uses The Flintstones to highlight the flaws in everyday life, proposing that religion is an arbitrary means for those in power to control the masses – a notion that has been floated around by many from academics to comedians. There’s also the idea that consumerism is instituted and promoted by those in power to distract people from important issues, which serves as the primary focus of the issue.
Russell does not craft this topic into a farcical satire as he has done in the past, instead striving to strike the readers’ emotional chords. Fred, in his own insecurity, attempts selling vitamins door-to-door as a means to better provide for his family. Bedrock has become obsessed with buying stuff that serves no purpose, or as the book refers to it, “crap.” Fred’s mounting self-pressure to enable his family’s indulgences brings the book to a more somber, introspective place than one might expect from a Flintstones comic. Ultimately, the resolution is rather cheesy, and cynical minds may see it as a tired cliche of sitcoms from years past,
Though Russell uses The Flintstones #2 to push his critiques of modern Western culture, He does not forget that this is a comic starring the modern Stone-Age family. Yes, there are some changes, such as Pebbles’ depiction as an apathetic, modern teenager. However, the main cast are still recognizable to fans of the cartoon thanks in large part to the art of Steve Pugh. He and colorist Chris Chuckry have recreated Bedrock as a world that is recognizable despite a realistic makeover. Though it’s still a little weird to see Fred looking more like John Hamm than John Goodman, there are visual gags aplenty to make up for it. From the “Powergoat” to the a “We Sell Neanderdolls” sign, Pugh’s art contains as much commentary on its own as Russell’s script. And those moments which see the characters expressing themselves feel genuine, from a heart-to-heart between Fred and Wilma to the last page reveal of a Flintstones staple.
The Flintstones may not reach the heights of the unjustly unfinished Prez (no animosity in my tone there), but Russell and Pugh are carving out a spot in the publishing lineup for a charged and socially aware satire book. Perhaps if the higher ups at DC can exercise patience, The Flintstones can develop into something really special.