By Mark Russell, Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry, Dave Sharpe, Bilquis Evely
Veteran neglect, Stone Age rocket science, and alien Spring Break. This issue has everything!
I’m never quite sure what I’m going to get in each issue of this series. Conflicting emotions is a recurring theme for me, but subject matter wise I can’t predict what Russell and Pugh have in store. What does that say about a book like this based on a property from the 1960s being less predictable than any other comic on the shelves?
Obviously its quality, this book is brilliant. If I haven’t said that about this series, let me say it here: It’s fragging BRILLIANT.
It’s a very tongue-cheek take on the Flintstones but always walks this line of gut-punching satire and sitcom optimism. By far this would be my pick for This Week’s Finest if it was my turn.
The issue starts off with a humorous send-up to famous scientist Karl Sagon, a poorly planned ape astronaut mission and the fallout from that being even worse than a widowed chimpanzee. The Rocket non-starter attracts three extraterrestrial visits: one from a group cataloging Earth’s primitive culture and then leaving it behind, a second as hundreds of young aliens celebrate no supervision and no responsibilities, and the third being the adults of their race putting the brakes on their fun. The plot flows very nicely from A-to-B-to-C.
Possibly the most surprising and political moment in the issue comes from Russell’s depiction of Veteran neglect, which is the only issue that Annoying Orange running for President talks about that isn’t insane. The former soldiers of the Paleolithic Wars struggle with employment, housing, purpose, even getting help from severe depression. It’s not handled in a super depressive manner itself, but did hit a bit close to home. Of course a lot of what Russell “talks” about is actually something Americans tend to overlook and forget about the people who risked their lives for our freedoms. Which if there’s any moral to that to find in this issue, its that people will keep on ignoring the ones who saved their butts from a collective fire once all is said and done.
There’s about a dozen other things plot-wise I could talk about from this issue, but one other one that I noticed was the subtle time jump. How much is unclear, but Pebbles, Bam-Bam and Dino each seem a few years older from the previous issue. It’s not a complaint, in fact I kind of enjoy Russell’s willingness to move the cast and setting around a bit. TV shows are notoriously static, running for years and having character’s progress at a snail’s pace, so having the two youngest characters from the source material mature is a smart way to set this book apart and allow for some new stories to be told with them.
I’ve said a lot about the plot, but I can’t say enough about Steve Pugh’s art in this series as it’s absolutely vital by this point. Russell’s script focuses more on satire, while Pugh’s art contrasts with a charming, picturesque view of the Stone Age and family life that just gives you all the feels. Even the “horrific” moments of the story have a wink and nudge vibe to them that is impossible not to enjoy. I like the way Pugh’s art gives all of the animal characters a noticeable awareness, like the chimpsmonaut knowing he wouldn’t survive the rocket launch or the dinosaur that performs the launch causally downplaying his sacrifice. Pugh’s art just hits all the right notes that this series aims for and feels like a labor of love. Chris Chuckry’s colors, along with Pugh’s art, help to make all of that possible. Its tough to describe his palette, except maybe to say he doesn’t use a lot of cool colors. Instead, most of the art uses warm and/or intermediate hue’s like grays and browns which is fitting because it takes place in the Stone Age. Granted Chuckry has the TV show’s colors to work from and he does but they feel more varied and planned out.
The amount of work these two put into this issue is crazy, with all the detail involving the rocket launch (love that scene), the alien delinquents loitering around the police station (love that one two), Pugh puts in so much detail and Chuckry just makes all the right elements pop.
This book embodies why I read comics: characters I love,with inventive story-telling you can’t do anywhere else. I might have to buy the physical collection when it comes out, there needs to be more of this. I can say wholeheartedly, if you asked me what book you should be reading from DC, it would be The Flintstones. There’s other good books, even great ones (fingers crossed for Doom Patrol), but none of them can touch this series. It’s funny, its honest, its political and its using a property that most people know but probably don’t remember. I can’t wait to see what happens next time.
Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent