REVIEW: The Flintstones vol. 1 by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh

The Flintstones, Vol. 1The Flintstones, Vol. 1 by Mark Russell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Flintstones comic, written by Mark Russell and illustrated by Steve Pugh, has, so far, been a terrific series of scathing allegories, which lampoon everything from marriage to war. Each issue tackles its own societal problems with brutal satire that continually manages to straddle the line between depressing and hilarious. This isn’t just a straight up series update, and for that reason, it manages to do what most adapted properties fail at, to wit: it’s good because it does something different with the source material instead of just trying to smash it into the clothes of another medium without full consideration of its inherent differences.

Russell uses the frame of the Flintsones to create a very different kind of story. One that discusses topics as wide ranging as (in no specific order) worker’s rights, corporate greed, the fickleness of the art world, consumerism over substance, the blind acceptance of organized religion, the human desire to be wanted, the human desire to kill, bullying in popular elections, the rich othering people outside of their clan in order to take their resources via warfare, adopting children of wartorn places, veterans being a political talking point while they are useful and cast aside afterward, marriage as a love insurance scheme, the blocking of gay rights, and I’m sure there are a bunch I’m leaving out. Impressively, while covering that vast spread of topics, nothing felt rushed. The argument that each arc tries to make is always clear and no point is ever belabored. The characters are all well characterized and each has their own sense of depth. Pebbles especially, in her limited page time, reminds me so much of people I met as a teenager on my own forays into the punk scene.

Steve Pugh’s art is a good fit for the modern take on the series. Though I was never completely blown away by any specific panels, I enjoyed the character designs quite a bit, especially those of the main cast. The panel and page flows were apparent from page one and well-defined throughout this trade and Pugh imbues the book with a nostalgic familiarity while also making it his own. Colorist Chris Chuckry adds his touch with cleverly muted flashback scenes and an intriguing color palette that feels vital.

All in all, The Flintsones is a great read for you if you’re looking for sarcastic, dark humor dressed up like a childhood memory. If you are in the market for a revamped Honeymooners send up, you’re not going to find it in these pages (though the original show had its own subtle and sardonic charm), but I think this will land with the people near my demographic who watched the show when they were kids, but want a new brand of satire. Of course, the fact that pretty much all of these issues are self-contained stories and there isn’t much bleed from one arc to the next means that there doesn’t seem to be any grander story arc, though that also means that it never feels bogged down in an overwrought plot. If you’re a fan of Mad Magazine or films like Idiocracy or Tropic Thunder, you’ll probably enjoy this book. If not, you might be better served trying something else.

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