By Mark Russel, Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry, Dave Sharpe
The Stone Age has invented the news, door to door sales scams and crap, does it get any better than that?
Crap, stuff you don’t need but got to have to feel complete. Stuff like automatic can openers, fancy shoes and big screen TVs. It’s the catalyst for this issue’s story as everyone in Bedrock suddenly has all this stuff available but struggles to afford it. Fred sees that Wilma and Pebbles love crap, but can’t keep up with all the expenses. Naturally, he takes a second job working nights selling phony vitamins.
Russel turns up the cyncism in this issue, lampooning more of modern society in the context of the caveman era. It offers some surprisingly funny moments, like the news anchor showing a violent image and then remarking how they should have warned people about it beforehand (honest mistake, it was the first ever news program). Russel even touches on religion, as the inhabitants of Bedrock go through a list of gods (they worship various animals until they get sick of them) before finally the preist invents the invisable god that suits everybody since they didn’t want to be worshipping household applicances.
This gives artist Steve Pugh the chance to stretch his creative muscles as he has to sell humor and character reactions on nearly every page. Personally, I’ve never seen his art as charming as it is in this series. It works well with Russel’s tonal cyancism, Pugh’s art feels more honest than hard-hitting, which is a good way to reinvent Barbara’s iconic creation. Credit to colorist Chris Chuckry, with Pugh’s pencils it instantly looks and feels like The Flintstones cartoon but created today on our Hidef plasma screens. Bedrock looks both retro and modern, with Pebbles ponytail tall looking more like a coif while Fred and Barney’s body proportions are large and bulky like cavemen typically are depicted.
I keep finding myself on the fence when reading the first two issues of the series, not because the quality is bad (it certainly isn’t), but wondering if Russel’s tone isn’t going too far. Of course by the end there’s a touching sitcom resolution, this time involving Fred returning all their appliances for a cute purple dinosaur that does nothing and learning that things don’t make you happy. Also something I’ve noticed is that while everyone assumes Barney is the dumb one in each story, he actually comes out ahead in this one outselling Fred in the vitamin scam. The series is only two issues in but already feels fully realized and without a need to change anything, <hint> for jump on anywhere new readers. In a way, it reminds me of Matt Groening’s Futurama; the setting is ridiculous, the humor off the wall, but at its core is about human relationships overcoming it all. In an era where most license comics live or die by faithfully following continuity 20-30 years old, The Flintstones eschews that to simply be its own thing by updating its source material. It’s refreshing and challenges my view of things that were comforting in my early days without just destroying them for the sake of it.
Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent