By Mark Russell, Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry, Dave Sharpe
“Farewell to Bedrock” is a bittersweet conclusion to what has become one of my favoriteseries of 2017. Bitter in the sense that this is the end of the Russell and Pugh’s revisioning of the Hanna Barbara characters as a satircal, cavemen version of Mad Men that was at times poignant and biting. Sweet, in the sense that it sticks the landing.
I’ve written about this book plenty of times, with good and bad experiences, the latter which mostly tended towards the issue in my hands wasn’t as good as the previous one. In a nutshell, this series went strong almost more than it had any right to. A version of The Flintstones that mixed in ethnic cleansing, idiotic figures of authority, animal slaughter, PTSD, and spring-breaking aliens?
It could have easily crash and burned on entry, but Russell’s sharp wit and Pugh’s more animated style played well together to make the book’s tone engaging and accessible without being offensive to fans who grew up with the characters.
By this issue, there’s payoff expected as its not only the final issue, but one where the seeds Russell has planted throughout the previous issues come to bear fruit. Gazoo has to decide whether to recommend the human race be exterminated for the safety of the Universe, or to let them grow and hope they don’t destroy themselves anyway. Fred’s bowling ball has had it with being a disposable tool for human enjoyment, and is planning his own protest. Mr.Slate has to decide whether he’s learned to be a better person, or if he’ll let pettiness led him astray yet again. Each one comes to its own resolution, and turns away from the cynicism that was constant in the series to the hope that humanity will save itself by learning to be better. It’s simple, heartwarming, and could sum up the message of this series: we have to be better if we’re going to survive much longer.
Of course, Steve Pugh’s art has been critical in making this book what it is. It’s respectful to the cartoon, but much more intricate without looking busy. The animals are cutesy and lost with their place living alongside humans. Somehow, the zany physics of Bedrock seem to work with Pugh’s pencils, like the stone-wheeled cars powered by running on the ground (which would almost certainly tear your feet off if you actually tried it in real life). The fashion of the stone age people is seemingly inspired by 60’s psychedelia mixed with animal prints, and there’s in-jokes scattered throughout many scenes to remind us of our own world. Pugh makes everyone in this book “feel” human and mundane, as though they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. It’s a subtle but effective way to modernize what this title is based on, and I feel like any artist that touches these characters again should study what Pugh did with them.
Over twelve issues, this team has made me love The Flintstones all over again, as well as turn out a book that pointed out the absurd and trivial things that we often don’t notice in our society. As much as I wish for it to go on further, I know that this is a fitting end. It’s time for the creaters (and us) to bid farewell to the Flintstones, the Rubbles, Mr. Slate, Gazoo, and Gerald, and move on to whatever comes next.