The Flintstones #4 sees Fred and Wilma go to a group marriage counseling session to reevaluate their relationship. Is it good?
The Flintstones #4 (DC Comics)
Throughout The Flintstones, writer Mark Russell has shown incredible balance in tackling social issues while maintaining the tone of the original cartoon series. This is perhaps no more evident than in the handling of Fred and Wilma’s visit to a marriage retreat. Rather than taking the easy road of giving Fred and Wilma marriage problems, Russell frames the story around a premise of marriage being attacked as an institution by those who believe it to be a threat to the paleolithic traditions of a man taking a woman into a cave in a bout of lust. The idea is silly, but it allows for Russell to explore the relationship between Fred and Wilma without doing damage to it.
In taking on the norms of marriage from such a “bizarre” angle, Russell also is able to critique marriage both as an institution as well as the ways modern society tries to limit marriage. When the therapy leader balks at the idea of two men getting married, Fred gives an emotional and logical defense of gay marriage without it seeming like he’s preaching to the audience. Artist Steve Pugh’s character work shines here as Fred details the story of growing up in his tribe, and color artist Chris Chuckry renders the flashback in a slate gray that adds a textual solidity to Fred’s recollection.
While the primary narrative found within The Flintstones #4 circles a satirical take on marriage, the issue opens with a subplot about the development of animal appliances. The issue begins as saber-toothed cat and a dinosaur look upon a campfire and question whether or not they should ally themselves with man in order to avoid starvation. Ultimately the big cat is just too hungry and allies herself with the humans and it is implied that this began the use of animals as a labor force in this world. The subplot continues in the more “modern” world where the Flintstones family’s appliances look on the pet Dino with disdain.
It’s an interesting deviation from the main story and presents Mark Russell great opportunities for humor. Steve Pugh continues to adapt these Hanna-Barbera characters in a dynamic fashion, and Chris Chuckry gives the appliances vibrant coloration that makes them pop from the stone world they reside in. The detailed expressions Pugh gives them come across on every panel, especially when Bowling Ball opens the closet to find Vacuum Cleaner sitting all alone. Through the choice of framing of the panels and Russell’s use of pauses in the dialogue, a tender moment is created, even though the participants are an armadillo and a purple elephant.
Unfortunately, the subplot doesn’t seem to go anywhere; when the Flintstones return home, the appliances go back to their regular positions and act as if nothing happened. While her parents are gone, Pebbles stays with the Rubbles, but this segment also seems directionless, resulting only in a seminar in which Professor Sargon explains the fundamental driving force of the universe. Both subplots have their share of gags and add dimension to the world, but neither really tie together well with the main section of the book, making them feel more like extraneous distractions rather than integral elements.
Is It Good?
In spite of this, The Flintstones continues to be an excellent comic. Mark Russell and Steve Pugh have found a great rhythm with the humor and drama in a way that is always entertaining. Color artist Chris Chuckry makes it all come together with a palette that can be both natural and zany at the same time, reflecting the wild but human world that makes The Flintstones a book everyone should check out.