Best Shots Review: THE FLINTSTONES #3 'A Labored Attempt at Humor'

"Flintstones #3" variant cover by Bilquis Evely
Credit: Bilquis Evely (DC Comics)
Credit: Ben Caldwell (DC Comics)

The Flintstones #3
Written by Mark Russell
Art by Steve Pugh and Chris Chuckry
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

Credit: Steve Pugh (DC Comics)

Mark Russell and Steve Pugh have weaponized the America’s favorite stone age family. Back when they were created, Fred and Barney were prehistoric versions of Ralph Kamden and Ed Norton (look up The Honeymooners if you don’t get this ancient reference), but Russell and Pugh aren’t interested in poking fun at marital “bliss” in The Flintstones #3 as their many spiritual ancestors have done.

This title isn’t some referendum on the state of modern marriage and family; their aim is toward something different, but this issue which makes a joke of a traumatized veteran, turning his final sacrifice into a punchline, never becomes anything more than a dull instrument of satire.

Credit: Steve Pugh (DC Comics)

Disappointingly missing from the book is any visual flair or style. Steve Pugh’s artwork and Chris Chuckry’s coloring spends too much time trying to inject a bit of realism into the classic Hanna-Barbera designs and storytelling that there’s no visual cleverness to it. For a satirical comic book, there’s no visually exciting or funny as Pugh has to draw scene after scene of partying aliens. And that could and should be funny. Aliens? Spring break? There should be something more than just aliens wearing next to nothing and puking all over the place. Those aren’t jokes; they’re MTV Spring Break outtakes where the partying college kids just have green skin.

The Flintstones #3 appear to have many targets for Russell and Pugh’s humor in this issue but Russell’s writing takes the easy way out too many times to really do any damage to anything. Opening up with a caveman Carl Sagan lecturing Pebble and Bam Bam’s school class about how most people believe that the world rests on the back of a giant turtle, Russell’s humor never goes anywhere beyond the easy joke. Ha, ha, get it? There are people who have crazy ideas about the world and the universe, like it’s flat or expanding or something equally as ridiculous as that. But instead of pursuing these ideas and dismantling the objects of his jokes, Russell just moves from one joke to the next and then to the next. Caveman Carl Sagan is just a setup for alien Star Trek characters to aliens using the city of Bedrock as their spring break party zone to the odd dismissal of a suicidal war veteran.

Credit: Steve Pugh (DC Comics)

In this title, the Flintstones have been set up to represent the American middle class. Fred and Barney are good, salt-of-the-earth guys who hang out at the “Veterans of Paleolithic Wars” lodge shooting pool and reminiscing about the good old days. Their kids are the rebels and radicals, challenging the old ways of thinking of life, the universe and everything. This is the American dream of 2016 but filtered through a very 1950-ish colored lens. Russell and Pugh’s humor seems to be stuck in time as the targets of their wit seem out of step with current family, social, scientific and political concerns. Their idea of being timely and relevant is making spring break and geek jokes.

By chasing after every joke they can think of, Mark Russell and Steve Pugh don’t spend any time developing or exploring any of the jokes. There’s one great panel riffing on David Bowie’s song “Major Tom” that goes nowhere while they keep coming back to this depressed veteran without ever making it funny. It’s a labored attempt at humor which is representative of most of the humor in this issue. If this is satire, it’s hard to tell who or what Russell and Pugh are trying to skewer with their humor, because there’s no focus to any of the jokes in The Flintstones #3.

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