New Mainstream Visions: Mark Russell and Mike Feehan’s Snagglepuss

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles

DC Comics, issues 1-6, or collected $16.99 tp

When considering indie comics, the unexpected is always hopefully expected. When given few constraints, indies can explore paths unthinkable to the person next to you; I guess that’s why they call it art.

But when considering mainstream commercial comics potential, there’s not a lot a writer/artist can work with. The main goal of acceptance with widespread success along with the added baggage of a wholly already defined concept can curtail even the cleverest of minds. Really, how many new Batman stories can be there to tell after 75 years? The best of commercial writers are lucky and skilled enough to surf the demands of the publisher’s needs, yet bring something extra to the table unique to their sensibilities. Mark Russell seems to respond well to this challenge, taking a simplistic concept and giving it more complex textures.

In the relatively short period of time Russell has worked for DC, he has invigorated not only a forty plus year old property –Prez, the story of America’s first teenage president, but also taken the horns on DC’s recent push of their stable of Hanna Barbera cartoon properties as well. His ridiculous amount of success with the Flintstones mini series (with artist Steven Pugh), demonstrated not only could he keep Fred and his cohorts interesting, he could also infuse them with a modern sensibility while examining society, incorporating the animated cave man’s aesthetics along with an updated look at todays foibles. Not only did these provide more entertainment than a hundred superhero comics, but more to the point, took a commercial assignment with highly defined limits and turned it into something fresh, new, and original for today’s readers.

Whether due to this success or just good luck, Russell grabs some more work from DC on their continued push of the HB cartoon characters with Snagglepuss, a character far down the line in terms of popularity from Fred Flintstone. Much to DC’s credit, they gave Russell incredible room to stretch his legs here, reimagining SP (Snagglepuss) as the famous American playwright Tennessee Williams, his struggles surviving in the foreground of 1950’s government investigations of un-American activities to punish him not only for his unorthodox approach towards his art, but using his homosexuality as a tool against him in the public eye.

So how to take this seriously because Tennessee Williams is drawn as an upright pink feline cartoon character? Well, Russell concocts a solution of cartoon animals coexistence with normal “human” looking people, as per demands of the necessities of the comic, with a preconditioned acceptance on our part to go along with it. While I think their contrasts are a bit jarring to be fully comfortable with, I can’t deny Russell’s success in portraying his story in such a compelling manner that it easily smooths out the rough spots of such acceptance, and keeps us fully on track with the narrative, making me want to pursue it to its conclusion. He is also able to seamlessly weave in many real life people (along with other Hanna Barbera characters) into actual historical events, giving the simplistic cartoon characters a sympathetic weight formerly unimaginable.

Artist Mike Feehan is to be credited with a disciplined approach in depicting this shared animated/real life universe, carefully keeping the cast distinct from one another and constantly identifiable. Colorist Paul Mounts brings his usual bright, garish approach to his pages, but here in this “animated” universe, his palette is much more comfortable in its surroundings, adding a visual layer of bouncy electric life to the proceedings.

Here we have quite the successful balancing act, where a writer gives the publisher the goal of a favorable commercial tie in comic, but also a controversial tale, rife not only with convincing cartoon characters, but also a well researched telling of important current history along with a biscuits worth of social vetting and political examination-whew! Sadly, the comics inevitable rough ending (it is based on Williams, after all), is countered by the solemn acceptance of it’s cast, with the promise good things can follow. Which is pretty close to how it generally works in real life. Quite the feast indeed for a comic named Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles.

Russell continues to impress here, with all three of his first forays into commercial comics writing must reads against all odds of them being so. May he have many more.

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #5 (July 2018)

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #5

It’s the penultimate issue. I forgot there were six. I was hoping for five. Especially since the comic opens with the Soviets–in the fifties–talking about how eventually America will elect a complete idiot president and then they’ll nuke us. Or something. If Russell wanted to correlate with modern day stuff, he needed to do it. Not just as a throwaway joke to distract from the endlessness of Exit Stage Left.

This issue has a big speech from Snagglepuss to Congress. Tragedy has struck and S.P. is dismantling his life so he can speak the truth. It’s not a rousing speech. I mean, if it were a rousing speech or if he gotcha’d the senators, it’d be something. But it’s nothing.

At the same time as S.P.’s testimony, his play has its opening night. The recent tragedy informs the play, the rousing speech informs the play, yada yada.

If only some of it were good.

The art didn’t bother me as much as usual. I don’t know why. I don’t think it’s better, but it might be. Maybe I’m just so thrilled it’s almost over.

CREDITS

Opening Night; writer, Mark Russell; penciller, Mike Feehan; inker, Sean Parsons and Jose Marzan Jr.; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #4 (June 2018)

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #4

If Exit Stage Left were any better, it might be full on problematic. Some of Russell’s juxtapositions and analogues should cause more intellectual consternation. They don’t, however, because the comic isn’t better. It’s perplexingly mundane.

This issue opens with the government woman who wants to force Snagglepuss’s cooperation in the witch hunt out visiting the nuclear test grounds in Nevada. There she discovers the U.S. government is lying to the American people about their chances of survival in a nuclear attack. So, she’s already a bit of a tool, long before Russell demonizes her in a juxtaposition later.

Then the Snagglepuss stuff is basically his fake wife and his boyfriend getting pissed at him and so he does something about it. It’s like the C plot though. The comic really belongs to Huckleberry Hound, who gets a really depressing storyline this issue.

It’s become clear, four issues in, some of Exit Stage Left’s problem is the art. Feehan and Parsons are competent but uninspired. Russell’s already doing drab history with the inclusion of anthropomorphized cartoon animals supposedly going to make it special, the art should at least be enthusiastic. It’s not.

What’s worse is the art on the backup, Sasquatch Detective, is a lot more enthusiastic. Gus Vasquez is on the art this time. Brandee Stilwell is still writing. Still not a funny strip. And the cameo isn’t funny either.

Exit Stage Left has two more issues. Expectations keep plummeting. It’s not a bad comic, it’s just utterly pointless.

CREDITS

Doom Town; writer, Mark Russell; penciller, Mike Feehan; inker, Sean Parsons; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Ruff & Reddy Show #6 (May 2018)

The Ruff & Reddy Show #6

It’s over. It’s really, really over. Finally. In what’s got to be the best issue since the first–I can’t go back and look, I don’t want to remember too much about the experience of reading Ruff and Reddy. I’m ready to forget. Ha.

So this issue has very little of writer Chaykin trying to offer commentary on show business. There’s talk about commentary on show business, but it’s bluster. The bluster works better than when Chaykin’s actually trying. This issue opens with a pseudo-Ain’t It Cool News website page. Because Ruff and Reddy apparently thinks AICN is a thing still. But other than that painful exposition tool? There’s not a lot of nonsense here. When Ruff and Reddy go on TV, Chaykin sticks it out and has a real scene.

And on it goes, with the character development Chaykin’s avoided for four issues, before a nice, sort of funny finish. I mean, if it weren’t vaguely homophobic. It might have actually been a good start to the series but, no, Chaykin plotted the thing out disastrously and it’s possible the only reason I’m a wee bullish on the finale is because it is the finale.

I never have to read Ruff and Reddy Show again.

I can’t believe I read it this time.

Nice enough art from Rey. He really deserves a better project than this one.

CREDITS

A Cautionary Tale In Six Parts, Part Six; writer, Howard Chaykin; artist, Mac Rey; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editors, Michael McCalister and Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #3 (May 2018)

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #3

I think this issue the series’s best so far. But it has jack to do with Snagglepuss. There’s a TV interview bookend with he and Huckleberry Hound and Snagglepuss is in most of the issue, he’s just not important to any of it. Not when there’s a Marilyn Monroe cameo, a full-on Joe DiMaggio first person flashback, not to mention the implication Snagglepuss is responsible for Clint Eastwood’s success.

Oh, and he finds Huckleberry Hound a boyfriend finally; because gay bar. Where Snagglepuss pisses off his Cuban lover with some of his comments on the Cuban Revolution.

Russell’s writing is strong and anti-dramatic. It’s a tedious read, even when it’s just a scene. Like the DiMaggio flashback. It’s interesting, historically, but dramatically inert on its own and entirely puzzling in Exit Stage Left.

If Russell wanted to do some creative nonfiction about how McCarthyism hit New York, he should’ve just done it. Throwing the cartoon characters in does nothing for it.

Decent art from Feehan, who’s better at people than anthropomorphized dogs and cats.

And the Sasquatch Detective backup is odd. It’s got to be perplexing to readers not versed in the right pop culture trivia and, even if they are, it’s still unlikable and not funny.

CREDITS

<p style="font-size:11px;">Actors and Stars; writer, Mark Russell; penciller, Mike Feehan; inker, Mark Morales; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Ruff & Reddy Show #5 (April 2018)

The Ruff & Reddy Show #5

The Ruff and Reddy Show continues. It continues to get more and more embarrassing for writer Chaykin, who apparently decided to add some commentary on Hollywood sexual assault and harassment. Only not really, just for the opening summary page.

Then the issue is a series of not funny scenes with Ruff and Reddy in various television pilots. They’re all terrible modern television shows. Chaykin handles it all dispassionately. He’s just churning through. The reader, the writer, they get to churn through the pages without dwelling. Poor Rey has to illustrate this nonsense.

Chaykin finishes the comic with an almost decent scene at Comic Con with Ruff and Reddy getting into a fight. It’s not a decent scene, but it’s almost decent.

Barely almost.

I can’t believe I’ve made it through five of these comics.

CREDITS

A Cautionary Tale In Six Parts, Part Five; writer, Howard Chaykin; artist, Mac Rey; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editors, Michael McCalister and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Dastardly & Muttley #6 (April 2018)

Dastardly & Muttley #6

Ennis does indeed pull off Dastardly & Muttley. The finale is a mostly action book as Dastardly and Muttley fight about how they’re going to save the world. As in, their method. It’s a bunch of good dialogue from Ennis–who has a lot more fun integrating cartoonish dialogue than he has previously–and a great pace.

Mauricet’s artwork is outstanding. He can do Ennis’s cartoons as people humor scenes–though Ennis really should’ve reminded the fox president is George Clooney. Anyway, Mauricet can do those absurdist sequences, he can do the action sequences, but then he can also do the “real life” things. Like the establishing shots and the transition shots.

In a book with either extreme facial expressions or anthropomorphized ones, it turns out Mauricet excels at muted, dramatic expressions.

It’s a neat book. Could be better, sure, but there’s only so much you can do with a Dastardly & Muttley comic book in 2018.

CREDITS

6: You Build me a Thingumabob; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Mauricet; colorist, John Kalisz; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #2 (April 2018)

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #2

So, Snagglepuss. How many more issues of Snagglepuss.

It’s okay? Feehan and Morales’s art is good. Enough. It’s not exciting art. And Russell’s storytelling is more than competent.

But the book is kind of pointless. Sure, Snagglepuss as a gay playwright finding his way into trouble with McCarthyism is an idea, but there’s still no story. Snagglepuss wanders around, hanging out with humans and manimals. Humanimals. He keeps on giving people jobs. He wants to help.

Sometimes even when people don’t want his luck. Like when Huckleberry Hound has a cruising fail. Funny part about that? There’s something to look at when it’s a manimal getting punched in the face–it’s for a (somewhat sad) laugh. Huck’s physical suffering isn’t considered.

Anyway. Snagglepuss, even though he’s a great playwright, is sort of naive when it comes to threats from the government and warnings from his friends.

This book still feels like an underdeveloped idea put to series.

CREDITS

A Dog’s Life; writer, Mark Russell; penciller, Mike Feehan; inker, Mark Morales; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Ruff and Reddy Show #4 (March 2018)

The Ruff and Reddy Show #4

Ruff & Reddy has turned a corner. It’s now abjectly pointless. Chaykin has a big twist–which doesn’t come off like a big twist because artist Rey doesn’t make important panels bigger, in fact they’re usually smaller. But it’s also a really lame big twist.

Instead of doing the bickering cartoon animals shtick, Chaykin concentrates on a condemnation of the entertainment industry. Unfortunately, the cartoon animals are a terrible entry into that condemnation–and Chaykin really doesn’t have anything to say about the entertainment industry.

Or, if he does, it’s so bland, predictable, and familiar, the eyes gloss over it. In fact, mine glossed over so much I couldn’t help but notice Rey’s word balloons look funny this issue. Maybe they look funny every issue, but I haven’t noticed until now.

There are two more issues.

I don’t know if I can make it. Not because it’s too bad to read, but because it’s too bland to read.

CREDITS

A Cautionary Tale In Six Parts, Part Four; writer, Howard Chaykin; artist, Mac Rey; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editors, Michael McCalister and Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1 (March 2018)

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1

Despite being about show business, Snagglepuss doesn’t have a lot of show. Whenever it comes time for drama, writer Mark Russell moves on. He gives penciller Mike Feehan and inker Mark Morales a couple panels to wrap up with visual suggestion, but no drama.

Considering Exit Stage Left reimagines Snagglepuss as a popular playwright in fifties New York City… some drama might be nice.

Russell’s script is intelligent, Feehan’s layouts are great, there’s just not a lot to the book. We meet Snagglepuss, get some of his ground situation, get some of the McCarthy hearings and its effects, but not much else.

When Huckleberry Hound shows up for a bit towards the end, it feels wrong. Russell has shied away from the cartoon origins of the character and having a guest star? It’s not smooth.

Exit Stage Left is off to an okay start. But, so far, there’s nothing special about it.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Russell; penciller, Mike Feehan; inker, Mark Morales; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Dastardly & Muttley #5 (March 2018)

Dastardly & Muttley #5

Dastardly & Muttley has had its ups and downs, but I didn’t really expect Ennis to pull it all together so well. And he doesn’t do it with restraint. There’s nothing restrained in this issue. It’s happened; the cartoonifying bomb has gone off. Lots of cartoon animals, lots of changes to cartoon logic.

Ennis handles it well. Even if the reveal didn’t end up being so thoughtful, the issue would be pretty good. It’s not laugh out loud funny, maybe Ennis isn’t comfortable without dirty jokes. But it’s pretty good, it’s a nice, amusing read. With good art from Mauricet.

But then Ennis gets to the reveal and it’s rather awesome. It’s a lot. There’s a lot of exposition and a lot of references in that exposition, but there’s also Mauricet’s ability to do sight gags.

Dastardly & Muttley isn’t going to be great; it might end up being a solid Ennis trade though.

CREDITS

5: In an Octopus’s Garden, in the Shade; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Mauricet; colorist, John Kalisz; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Ruff & Reddy Show #3 (February 2018)

The Ruff & Reddy Show #3

This issue Ruff and Reddy are tragic and sweet and sympathetic. Meaning Chaykin has changed it up yet again. Three issues, three starts to the comic.

Unless the different approaches are just the gag. Maybe they’re just the point of the comic. We’ll get to the end and the story never gets started; Chaykin will have introduced at least three new subplots and dismissed six by then. There’s something like a subplot development this issue but it doesn’t work. Chaykin hasn’t been working on the subplot at all, so it’s just a cheap twist.

Maybe not even cheap. Cheap’s a determination. Chaykin’s not determined on Ruff & Reddy.

Rey still does quite well with the art. He’s drawing the same things over and over again, but he does them well. Chaykin puts more time into his one-panel talk show spoofs than he does the issue itself. Sorry. Sorry. I was trying to be positive about Rey’s art.

It’s not enough to keep this book going though. Reading it feels like more effort than Chaykin put into writing it.

CREDITS

A Cautionary Tale In Six Parts, Part Three; writer, Howard Chaykin; artist, Mac Rey; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editors, Michael McCalister and Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

Dastardly & Muttley 4 (February 2018)

Dastardly & Muttley #4

Just in terms of plotting, this issue of Dastardly & Muttley is Ennis’s best. He’s got a lot going on at once–he’s got Dastardly and Muttley in a chase sequence with their former teammates, he’s got a Senate committee, he’s got general stuff going on in the world. Not too much of the last one; Ennis and Mauricet are actually rather reserved in the wacky visuals.

Except when the planet Earth grows mouse ears.

Most of the issue is talking heads, whether it’s a back and forth with the hearing or with the two planes. It’s an airplane chase. Doesn’t matter. Except when it turns into yet another fracturing of reality.

As for the content, not simply the expert plotting, it’s fine. A mild funny. Ennis really proud of some word play he does in the Senate scene.

Mauricet’s art is solid. His expressions aren’t good enough for the talking heads or corresponding emotions, but otherwise everything’s solid. Until it gets hurried. Not a particularly impressive art issue. It’s rote.

Still. Fine comic.

CREDITS

4: Highway to the Danger Zone; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Mauricet; colorist, John Kalisz; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Ruff & Reddy Show 2 (January 2018)

The Ruff & Reddy Show #2

The second issue of Ruff & Reddy might as well be the first. By the time it’s over, the series is basically in at the point where it should’ve been at the end of the first issue. Or the beginning of this one.

Instead Chaykin plots out this long issue featuring Ruff and Reddy have to go to a pop culture con and sign autographs. They’re being hounded by the young agent but don’t really want to sign on the dotted line yet. They’re too proud.

Even though they’re sad and miserable. The comic goes on forever, without a lot of content. Rey’s digital art is fine, it’s just not at all interesting when all he’s visualizing is the anthropomorphic leads standing or sitting around alone and sad.

Maybe if Chaykin turns out to have a story in mind, the series will recover. From this issue, however, it doesn’t look like he’s got a story in mind at all.

CREDITS

A Cautionary Tale In Six Parts, Part Two; writer, Howard Chaykin; artist, Mac Rey; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editors, Michael McCalister and Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

The Jetsons 1 (January 2018)

The Jetsons #1

The Jetsons is really serious. It’s about a damaged Earth about to be struck with another disaster. There’s only so much time left with your kids. Hug them.

I’m not sure why writer Jimmy Palmiotti thinks anyone is going to care–past not wanting to see the Earth blow up or whatever (I’ll admit, it’s a weird sensation)–because his revision of “The Jetsons” cast sure isn’t going to get much sympathy.

Dad George Jetson looks about sixteen. Artist Pier Brito isn’t ready for a mainstream comic. His scenery is fine. His people are not. Past George looking like a kid, his part is to be freaked out his mom euthanized herself to become the family’s robot maid.

Wife Jane is an important scientist who knows the world is going to end soon. Or might end soon. Brito can’t keep a constant set of features for her. It’s like he can’t be bothered with facial details, much less expressions.

Daughter Judy has nothing to do. Except look younger than her dad. Jane doesn’t get the youthful appearance, at least nothing like George does.

Son Elroy is at that awkward age where he doesn’t like girls yet (but they like him) and he’s just trying to impress his dad. Who looks like his little brother. And has no scenes with him.

The script’s mediocre, the dialogue’s not even mediocre (Palmiotti can’t seem to figure out how to have George talk), the art’s disappointing.

We’ve met George Jetson. No more please.

CREDITS

Meet the Jetsons; writer, Jimmy Palmiotti; artist, Pier Brito; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Diego Lopez, Brittany Holzherr, and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Dastardly & Muttley 3 (January 2018)

Dastardly & Muttley #3

Ennis splits this issue between Dastardly and Muttley (as Dick is starting to self-refer) and the President. Oh, and the pilots sent to get Dastardly and Muttley.

The President is suffering the repercussions not just of assaulting a political opponent on television, but also the cartoonification of reality. It appears to be cartoonifying into a Dastardly and Muttley cartoon, at least based on Dick’s transformation into Dastardly is continuing (he spontaneously grows the mustache).

The opposing pilots are conflicted (they know the leads), but might also be suffering from reality’s cartoonification. Ennis has some fun with it, Mauricet’s art is good. The book is now half over, without much hint of where Ennis is taking it (if anywhere), but it’s still amusing enough.

Hopefully that enough carries it three more issues.

CREDITS

3: I’ll Be Gone When the Morning Comes; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Mauricet; colorist, John Kalisz; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Diego Lopez, Brittany Holzherr, and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Dastardly & Muttley 2 (December 2017)

Dastardly & Muttley #2

I am now on board with Dastardly and Muttley but with one caveat. As the world descends into an ultra-violent, wacky cartoon mania–so, of course, Ennis should write it–Ennis needs to keep the “President of the United States” gags in check.

The President of the United States killing someone with a giant cartoon mallet during a press conference isn’t as funny as it used to be (and only then if the setup were great). Instead, it’s probably something the world’s going to be worried about in 2019.

But otherwise, Ennis has got the comic set. He just needed to waste an issue doing pointless setup. This issue has much better plotting, much better pacing, much more affable characterization. It’s good. Nice art, again, from Mauricet. He’s got a playful but disciplined style. His dog faces are phenomenal.

CREDITS

2: And You Ain’t No Friend of Mine; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Mauricet; colorist, John Kalisz; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Brittany Holzherr and
Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Dastardly & Muttley 1 (November 2017)

Dastardly & Muttley #1

Garth Ennis doing a Hanna-Barbera comic. One with Warner Bros. cartoons references. And gross-out war violence (sort of… war violence, not gross-out, it’s definitely gross-out). What else. Oh, yeah. A man with a dog’s head.

Dastardly & Muttley plays to a lot of Ennis’s strengths–war comics, funny talking heads, reveals–even if it’s a little too slick. Mauricet’s art is gorgeous, but it’s all very controlled. Ennis’s script is all over the place. It’s exagerrated, which helps cover the slightness, and Mauricet’s art grounds it too much.

It’s fun, but it’s not clear if Ennis has plateaued on the fun with issue one.

CREDITS

1: And I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Mauricet; colorist, John Kalisz; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Brittany Holzherr and
Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flintstones 12 (August 2017)

The Flintstones #12

Russell puts The Flintstones to bed with a summary of the human race (from the Great Gazoo). Turns out prehistoric Bedrock is a lot more like the 21st century than one might think. There’s a lot of story threads–Fred needs to win an important bowling game, his bowling ball is preparing to rebel against human oppression, Pebbles thinks maybe mystery god Gerald is bunk and science is real–plus some nods back to previous issues. Wilma doesn’t get anything, Betty gets less. It’s sort of manipulative, Russell knows all the right buttons to push, including the nostalgia ones (including mocking nostalgia ones), and Pugh’s art is wonderful as always. The Flintstones has been an interesting, not entirely successful, but often inordinately ambitious series. It’s been a fine time; a yabba dabba doo time, as it were.

CREDITS

Farewell to Bedrock; writer, Mark Russell; artist, Steve Pugh; colorist, Chris Chuckry; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flintstones 11 (July 2017)

The Flintstones #11

Not the best issue of The Flintstones. Not the worst. Not the best though. Russell’s pretty wide with his jokes–hipsters, unpaid interns, vegan restaurants, neighborhood associations–all the stuff he’s referencing feels dated and he’s just doing it for filler anyway. The issue turns out to be all about Gazoo. Everything else is fluff. So clearly something went wrong somewhere with this one. But Pugh’s art is great; even though the style with the Gazoo sci-fi stuff is the same, it’s still sort of different. Pugh’s style changes just a little and it’s a neat perspective thing. Otherwise… it’s a bit of a yawner overall. More than half Russell’s jokes flop and he’s got a bunch of them.

CREDITS

The Neighborhood Association; writer, Mark Russell; artist, Steve Pugh; colorist, Chris Chuckry; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Suicide Squad/The Banana Splits Special (May 2017)

Suicide Squad/The Banana Splits Special

Given “The Banana Splits” were a thing in the late sixties, some dated references in Suicide Squad/The Banana Splits Special might make sense. But writer Tony Bedard doesn’t go for sixties or seventies jokes; instead, it’s mid-nineties racial jokes. The Banana Splits reinventing themselves gangsta rap is far less problematic than when the cops are shooting at them because cops don’t care about “Animal Americans.” The editors of the book, who work on the far better Hanna-Barbera books, clearly don’t bring anything to those better books if they let that kind of crud through. Otherwise, it’s lame with mild amusements. Harley Quinn and the Elephant are cute. Ditto Killer Croc and the monkey (almost). Ben Caldwell and Mark Morales’s art is fine, but it’s not like it needs to do much.

However, Mark Russell and Howard Porter’s Snagglepuss backup is awesome. It starts with him telling the HUAC a thing or two, then moves into an inspiration, if sad, lesson for a young writer. It’s awesome. And Porter’s got fantastic detail on anthropomorphized animals. Who knew.

CREDITS

Suicide Splits (Hey, it beats “Banana Squad”); writer, Tony Bedard; penciller, Ben Caldwell; inker, Mark Morales; colorist, Jeremy Lawson; letterers, Troy Peteri and Dave Lanphear. House Fires; writer, Mark Russell; artist, Howard Porter; colorist, Steve Buccellato; letterer, Dave Sharpe. Editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flintstones 10 (June 2017)

The Flintstones #10

Wilma gets a job, the mayor’s war-spending goes overboard, and Fred and Barney discover the cinema. It’s a meandering issue, but Russell touches on a lot. Pugh gets some great stuff to draw, there’s tragedy, there’s irony, there’s political commentary. It’s all kind of heavy too. Flintstones is always kind of heavy.

CREDITS

Buyer’s Remorse; writer, Mark Russell; artist, Steve Pugh; colorist, Chris Chuckry; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Booster Gold/The Flintstones Special (May 2017)

Booster Gold/The Flintstones Special

Booster Gold meets The Flintstones. Then there’s a Jetsons backup. Both are fairly rank, though Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti try to infuse Jetsons with the political subtext Mark Russell usually brings to Flintstones. He doesn’t in the feature though. He just has Booster Gold be an idiot because Booster Gold is an idiot. It’s sort of the comic one would’ve expected from a Hanna-Barbera imprint at DC… unlike the actual Russell Flintstones comic.

Nice enough art on the feature from Rick Leonardi and Scott Hanna. Pier Brito’s Jetsons art isn’t ready for primetime.

CREDITS

Booster Trouble; writer, Mark Russell; penciller, Rick Leonardi; inker, Scott Hanna; colorist, Steve Buccellato; letterer, Dave Sharpe. Eternal Upgrade; writers, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti; artist, Pier Brito; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Michael Heisler. Editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flintstones 9 (May 2017)

The Flintstones #9

It’s a great issue. The Flintstones’ housewares are in crisis because there’s a new bowling ball, there’s a new bowling ball because Fred got fired, Fred got fired because Mr. Slate found a new, pro-capitalism god. Russell finds the right balance between humor, social commentary, and Stone Age sitcom revisionism; Pugh’s art is, as always, pure delight.

CREDITS

A Basket of Disposables; writer, Mark Russell; artist, Steve Pugh; colorist, Chris Chuckry; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flintstones 8 (April 2017)

The Flintstones #8

It’s like Russell wanted to bite off more than he should be able to chew–Trump, the patriarchy, capitalism–and prove he could do it. And he does. He handles three big plot threads, with the patriachial thread tying into everything else–including Fred’s self-discovery and Wilma’s reunion with her mother. Great Pugh art, some rather funny moments. It’s a fantastic comic.

CREDITS

The Leisure Class; writer, Mark Russell; artist, Steve Pugh; colorist, Chris Chuckry; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flintstones 7 (March 2017)

The Flintstones #7

Until the last few pages, this issue of The Flinstones is just fine. I mean, Pugh’s not on this month and Rick Leonardi and Scott Hanna do an all right enough job but there’s something missing. Russell tries a lot–including Gazoo narrating the whole thing in a report–and some of it connects, some doesn’t. The end’s just way too sappy though.

CREDITS

Another Day on Earth; writer, Mark Russell; penciller, Rick Leonardi; inker, Scott Hanna; colorist, Chris Chuckry; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flintstones 6 (February 2017)

The Flintstones #6

There’s a considerable darkness lurking in this issue but Russell keeps it at bay. He goes for the humor instead of exhausting potential metaphors. It’s the end of the world–the asteroid is on its way–and Bedrock loses it. As always, some great art from Pugh.

CREDITS

The End of the World as We Know It; writer, Mark Russell; artist, Steve Pugh; colorist, Chris Chuckry; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flintstones 5 (January 2017)

The Flintstones #5

Russell tries a little too hard; he splits between 2016 U.S. political metaphor–sort of–for Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm and some really heavy stuff for Fred and Barney. Like, old war stories heavy. It’s well-written enough, beautifully illustrated, but it’s too thin for Russell’s ambitions.

CREDITS

Election Day; writer, Mark Russell; artist, Steve Pugh; colorist, Chris Chuckry; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Wacky Raceland 5 (December 2016)

Wacky Raceland #5

The drivers all eat mushrooms and flashback to “The Butcher Shop,” where they got their abilities or cloned or resurrected or whatever. Pontac’s enthusiastic enough but he doesn’t have enough content. Manco’s art is, of course, fantastic and carries most of the issue. While thin, it’s amiable.

CREDITS

The Butcher Shop, Part One: Revelations; writer, Ken Pontac; artist, Leonardo Manco; colorist, Mariana Sanzone; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flintstones 4 (December 2016)

The Flintstones #4

Once again, The Flintstones amazes. I didn’t want to be obvious and say it rocks, which it also does, but it’s more impressive in the way it amazes. What Russell comes up with is really cool. He does a riff on marriage. The not marrying people of Bedrock revolt against the marrieds. It’s a fairly obvious metaphor for marriage equality, but it’s a good one. Russell seems to be treating each issue of The Flintstones as something special. Almost a one-shot (or he’s just really scared of it getting cancelled and he’s doing the best work he can).

The other thing is the characters. His Fred and Wilma are their best possible selves taking into account the adaptation and the brand. They’re ideals, something I don’t remember them being in the cartoon. It’s Russell engaging the brand in a very positive way, while still allowing himself some bite in the rest of the comic.

Great art from Pugh because of course it’s going to be great, it’s Steve Pugh doing comedic cave-people, dinosaurs and talking prehistoric animals.

It’s a really good book.

CREDITS

Domestications; writer, Mark Russell; artist, Steve Pugh; colorist, Chris Chuckry; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

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