Upcoming elections stress Fred and Barney out while Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm deal with a school bully in The Flinstones #5. Is it good?
The Flintstones #5 (DC Comics)
With a focus on elections, The Flintstones #5 sees the politics play out on multiple levels. As Bedrock hosts a mayoral debate, Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm must deal with the school presidential elections as a fellow classmate tries to strong-arm his way into power. And while there are some parallels between the events, the split narrative causes The Flintstones #5 to lack the thematic cohesiveness that was found in previous issues.
To be sure, each half of Mark Russell’s script works; candidate Clod the Destroyer’s xenophobic rhetoric causes Barney and Fred to recall the war against the Tree People. This segment is easily the strongest narrative, as prior issues had talked about the war in somewhat ambiguous terms. Learning that Fred, Barney, and their fellow vets had essentially been goaded into committing genocide adds significant dimension not just to their characters, but past stories. Suddenly Joe’s battle with suicide in issue #3 has an additional layer to it.
By contrast, the subplot featuring Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm comes across as a humorous aside. And while that’s perfectly acceptable and helps tonally balance the issue, the scenes never quite move beyond that. The bully, Ralph, gets his comeuppance while the adult politicians simply fade out of the comic. There final pages help tie some of the threads together, but the emotions of that scene build almost entirely from Barney’s war stories. It frankly would have helped the comic had the two pieces felt more intertwined.
Unlike previous issues, The Flintstones #5 focuses almost entirely on human characters, which helps draw out another strength of Steve Pugh’s artwork: the characters. In the midst of animal appliances and odd adaptations of real-world technology, it can be easy to lose sight of how well Steve Pugh is able to bring these characters to life on the page. Even though many of these prehistoric men are musclebound, Pugh finds a way to form distinct physiques for each character, and one can see the effects of aging on Barney and Fred in the modern day segment versus their youthful appearance in the flashbacks. Pugh gives the cast real emotionality, perhaps best seen as Barney and Betty deal with their inability to have children.
Colorist Chris Chuckry continues to be phenomenal–his colors here help tell the story and provide some cohesion that’s missing in the script. The flashbacks here are given a more muted palette. It’s a noticeable effect, but not one that distracts like black-and-white or sepia tone. In many ways, it gives the past sequence a grainy feel that instantly calls back to Vietnam War footage that the narrative alludes to in Russell’s script and Pugh’s illustration. At the same time, it creates a nice tandem with the school segments in which the younger, more modern class feels more optimistic and hopeful due to the comparatively brighter palette.
Is It Good?
The Flintstones #5 doesn’t quite come together as well as previous issues had. While learning about Fred and Barney’s involvement in the war gives both their actions as well as the actions of their fellow vets in previous issues weight, the themes in this story and the B plot with Bamm-Bamm and Pebbles never feel as united as they perhaps could have. Nevertheless, The Flintstones #5 is still an entertaining comic, and Mark Russell’s measured approach to focusing on the supporting cast pays off here. Steve Pugh and Chris Chuckry have been making magic with their artwork the whole series, and between the jungle locale and expanded cast, The Flintstones #5 only shows off how amazing their talent is. While not as strong as previous chapters, The Flintstones is still one of the better comics on stands.