This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on July 9, 2016.
The Flintstones #1 (DC Comics)
Mark Russell (A) Steve Pugh (C) Chris Chuckry (L) Dave Sharpe
The Flintstones #1 is a shocking comic, and that adjective can be applied in more ways than one. It’s shocking thatThe Flintstones is as well crafted as it is. The first issue is filled with commentary on the era in which its cartoon predecessor was produced. Misogyny and racism run rampant, as do the scars of war and embrace of consumerism. It is every bit as filled with jokes about American society as writer Mark Russell’s previous comic Prez. And all of those jokes are just as well present by artist Steve Pugh who fills these panels with details. His layout for Bedrock (jam-packed with puns) and regularly busy backgrounds are a joy to explore. Sometimes they read almost like a “Where’s Waldo” storybook for the pop culture savvy. Pugh transforms the eponymous characters into a striking portrait of idealized forms on modern television.
Fred and Wilma both may be very handsome, but their being nice to look at does not equate to a nice comic. Readers may be shocked at just how mean-spirited The Flintstones #1 is. The only vaguely likable characters in the issue are the lead couple. Everyone expresses some form of social disorder, Barney appears racist, Betty is self-obsessed, and Mr. Slate is a monster. It is a cruel funhouse mirror held up to the American people that expresses nothing but distaste, albeit often in a hilarious fashion.
If that was all there was to say, then The Flintstones #1 would be shockingly easy to recommend, but there’s one more subject that will startle readers. The manner this comic addresses race is deeply disturbing. It creates an analog for the genocide of native peoples in North America and uses it as the setup for a PTSD joke. A group of outsiders are confused by race (cro-magnon vs. neanderthal), characterized by familiar stereotypes, and one is brutally dispatched. The constructs of race within The Flintstones #1 are every bit as flippant as the rest of the comic.
That joking tone makes for one of the most mean-spirited and cynical comics of 2016. It’s well-constructed and often smart, but undermines itself with some truly careless scenes. Transforming native peoples and American minorities into analogs whose suffering is used for a quick laugh is every bit as ugly as the culture The Flintstones aims to mock.
– Chase Magnett