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Mark Russell

The Flintstones

Yabba Dabba Doo! This satirical look at the iconic Flinstones is a treat.

I recently read Not All Robots by Mark Russell which had some social commentary about a futuristic society, and on Goodreads, I noticed several reviewers mentioned this earlier work, which goes back in time to offer more biting wit. We drop in on the town on Bedrock 100,000 years ago and meet Fred & Wilma with their tween Pebbles, along with their best friends Barney & Betty and their son Bamm-Bamm. While these Hanna-Barbera characters are similar to the cartoon, the creative team takes them in new directions.

Each chapter/issue is self-contained telling a new story, similar in a way to episodic television.  Russell ties in wry commentary on society, into what we remember about the Flintstones, with a not surprisingly liberal bent. In this narrative, Fred and Barney are veterans of the Paleolithic Wars and we get a look at how the Bedrock community came to be after soldiers destroyed the prior tree-living inhabitants, mirroring how America was colonized after killing off Native American tribes. This sad chapter also explains how Bamm-Bamm came to join Barney and Betty, as he is the last survivor of a tree-dwelling tribe after an unjustified raid. We also have chapters on materialistic society, with riffs on Flinstones vitamins and the animals that are used by the Bedrock community as appliances. These animals that serve as sight gags actually get some bittersweet dialogue about their lives as pawns. Religion and the sanctity of marriage are also addressed.

Artist Steve Pugh has created a clever universe, that honors the original, but has fun poking fun at it. The men aren’t drawn quite as crudely as their cartoon counterparts, giving them a slightly more realistic look. The women are still hotties, as many sitcoms from the Honeymooners to King of Queens, pair a buffoon with a beautiful woman. As I said earlier there are many sight gags, plus there are caricatures of famous people and situations. I’m sure the artist had fun creating many of the jokes found throughout.

For fans of satire and for those with fond memories of The Flintstones, this is an amusing book that will make you chuckle and as a bonus, think!

Not All Robots

In the year 2056 robots have supplanted humans in a futuristic world. Humans are no longer required to work, with newly sentient robots doing everything for them. An uneasy alliance has formed between the two factions, with each nervous about what the other is capable of.

The Walters family made up of teens Cora and Sven plus their parents have been assigned Razorball, a hulking giant of a robot who seems to spend a lot of free time in their garage tinkering on an unknown project. Tensions are high within the family, with the father being slavishly devoted to the robot while the mother and teens question this new way of life. While at first humans were grateful for the help and giving up menial labor, they are now perceived as little more as pets to the AI robots. Another wrinkle is that occasionally the robots malfunction and go on killing sprees.

But even the robots face obsolescence when new mandroids are manufactured, looking humanoid and making the metal robots look outdated. This obsolescence makes me think of the classic Twilight Zone episode The Obsolete Man when all that is good is brushed aside for technology and progress to the detriment of mankind.

The art is solid and was appropriately shadowy and moody considering the storyline. The artist Mike Deodato Jr is very fond of grid overlays and it works effectively. The dot matrix that often was used to convey shadows was very apropos for the storyline.

Author Mark Russell’s satire is spot-on, highlighting toxic masculinity, consumer society, corporate greed and white supremacy. Taken as purely social commentary, the narrative is biting, with a side of snark. Recommended!

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