The Flintstones #1
Written by Mark Russell
Art by Steve Pugh and Chris Chuckry
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10
Is it too late for a yabba-dabba-do over?
In a world of dinosaurs and cavemen, The Flintstones proves to be a strange beast, one that makes tentative steps in a number of different directions, but still doesn’t know where it ultimately wants to go. While there’s certainly potential in the heart of Bedrock, writer Mark Russell and Steve Pugh don’t quite have that manic spark that made Russell’s previous DC book with Ben Caldwell, Prez, such a funny treat.
If there was ever a franchise that could be deserved to be called “iconic,” The Flintstones might be it - they were a trailblazing primetime animated series, a critical and commercial success that paved the way for The Simpsons, Family Guy and much more. But while most people know who the Flintstones are through cultural osmosis, Mark Russell stumbles out of the gate when trying to balance his characters.
It makes sense that Fred Flintstone would get the brontosaurus’ share of the spotlight in this debut issue, but he comes across as a passive protagonist here while Russell explores his brave new Bedrock. Unfortunately, while Fred is off trying to woo some Cro-Magnon co-workers, the rest of the gang gets short shrift - Wilma has a fun (if late-breaking) subplot as a struggling artist, but Barney and Betty Rubble’s appearances are basically blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos, adding little to the story.
Instead, Russell spends much of his creative energies establishing the world of The Flintstones, but this feels like a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” While there are plenty of puns to go around (Fred takes his guests to a place called “Outback Snakehouse,” while Wilma tries to call him on his “shell phone”), there’s not a ton of laughs to be had in this workplace comedy. Russell tries to sneak in some politics with his script, particularly with flashbacks to Fred’s military career, but more often than not, Russell is spending time showing us the nightlife of Bedrock — which doesn’t really feel all that revolutionary.
Some of this has to do with his synergy with his artist, Steve Pugh — while there was an effervescent energy to Russell’s work with Ben Caldwell in the pages of Prez, with lots of in-jokes thrown into the bright and cartoony world, Pugh doesn’t have that over-the-top quality to really sell the comedy. Weighed down by some too-dark colors by Chris Chuckry, these semi-realistic Flintstones come across as too muscular and not nearly expressive enough, with the sight gags barely registering.
But maybe this is fitting. Even the original Flintstones series got savaged by critics before hitting its cultural stride. I can only hope that’s the case with this series, considering that both Russell and Pugh are talented creators in their own right. But this opening issue of The Flintstones feels like its priorities are in the wrong place — this modern stone-age family feels like they’re playing second fiddle in their own book.