Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly single issue review roundup.
The Flintstones #1 (DC Comics)
(W) 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 that The 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
Heavy Metal #281
By By Grant Morrison, Erika Lewis, Edgar Roggenbau, Dean Haspiel, Jamaica Dyer, Enki Bilal, Stoya, Ed Luce, John Mahoney, Simeon Aston, Patricio Delpeche, J.K. Woodward, Benjamin Marra, Tom Forget, Mozchops, Adam Wollet, Andworld Design
Sex. It’s a topic that has been deemed “taboo” for a large part of America’s history. The proliferation of this nation’s media into global markets has caused this mindset to spread (though not necessarily be adopted) across the globe. The topic of sex, and why it’s frowned upon, has been the subject of debate for some time. “Make love, not war” is a sentiment often scoffed at by those in power. Countless deaths, many of them gruesome, are deemed okay to be seen by any age group while a couple engaged in sexual activity must be restricted. It’s a backwards mindset that has provided great fodder to stand-up comedians. Heavy Metal #281 looks to take sex back from the taboo.
As was the case in the previous issue, new Editor-in-Chief Grant Morrison provides a lengthy essay that is challenger, full of humor, and sets the tone for what lies ahead. Each word that could possibly have a sexual connotation is presented in all caps. Morrison does not shy away from what society has deemed unmentionable, but rather proudly flaunts it. The purpose for this is twofold. First, it’s funny. But secondly, and most importantly, it desensitizes the reader to sexual concepts. Any juvenile notions are purged from the mind over the course of the essay so that by the end, “EXPOSE YOURSELF” is seen in the context of the sentence rather than one’s base instincts.
Reading the opening essay is essential, because without it the works that follow may be seen simply as smut even though it’s far from it. “Option 3” by Morrison and Simeon Aston is a redemption story, as well as one of space exploration and peacekeeping. Edgar Roggenbau and Patricio Delpeche examine a possible future for sex and technology in “Luv U”. Dean Haspiel takes readers on an adventure with “Billy Dogma: The Last Romantic Antihero”. Jamaica Dyer gives readers a These stories heavily feature sex, but it is not what drives the narrative. Many fail to recognize this possibility even today.
Even though “sex” is the main driver of this issue, there are stories here for anyone looking for a break from the topic. The last chapter of Enki Bilal’s “The 49th Key” is found in here, as well as the second in Morrison and Ben Marra’s “Beachhead”. Heavy Metal has long been a publication which allows comic creators to do just that – create. Those curious as to what the state of the magazine would be under Grant Morrison will be happy to know its contributors are able to do exactly that.
– Daniel Gehen