Deadshirt is Reading: Transformers, The Flintstones, and Batman!

Deadshirt Is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more.

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Max Robinson is reading…

The Flintstones #1

Written by Mark Russell

Art by Steve Pugh

Colored by Chris Chuckry

Lettered by Dave Sharpe

DC Comics

“Aw, I just want to watch a caveman eat a tarantula. Is that too much to ask for?”

DC’s rollout of their line of updated Hanna-Barbera properties has given us a handful of fascinatingly strange titles of (at least at first pass) wildly varying quality. Somewhere in between the new yet elementally familiar Space Ghost and Penelope Pitstop in fetish gear lies Mark Russell and Steve Pugh’s take on the original everyman of animation, Fred Flintstone.

Steve Pugh’s art in this issue is a fascinating departure from his work on titles like the Nu52 Animal Man book. While not the first artist I’d have thought of for a book like Flintstones, his pages here feel like a very stylish, flashy adaptation of the 1994 live action Flintstones film.

Honestly, this first issue really embodies the strengths and excesses of DC’s Hanna-Barbera line as whole. On last year’s Prez, Russell managed to blend broad humor, sharp satire and moments of real tragedy with a deft hand. But tone-wise, this issue jars back and forth between the kind of classic dumb-fun jokes you expect from The Flintstones (Fred and Barney go to an OUTBACK SNAKEHOUSE for dinner) pressed up against wayyy too heavy elements (Fred and Barney participated in actual war crimes??). The issue’s underlying critique of Bedrock as a garish proto-America built on the pain and suffering of others (with Fred as a guy who’s just starting to realize that maybe wearing a tie for 15 years hoping for a promotion is a sucker’s game) is little more than a background element but suggests some interesting storytelling down the road. It’s a definite step up from “The Honeymooners but with cavemen,” but the end result feels extremely uneven.

What the first issue of The Flintstones really excels at is visual gags, and the book is mercifully loaded with some very good ones, from a turtle slowly delivering desserts to Fred’s asshole boss to a museum’s “outsider art” wing being located outside by the bathrooms. Russell and Pugh’s initial foray into the town of Bedrock doesn’t totally get the stone car wheels rolling, but there’s definitely potential here.

Patrick Stinson is reading…

Transformers: Till All Are One #2

Written by Mairghread Scott

Art by Sara Pitre-Durocher

Colored by Priscilla Tramontano

Lettered by Tom B. Long

IDW

Starscream: “It’s how his kind always thinks.”
Ironhide: “Decepticons?”
Starscream: “Little people.”

Transformers: Till All Are One is a new series from IDW that is designed to pay off story threads introduced in Windblade vol. 1 and 2. While the character of Windblade remains important to events, the title is more appropriate for a book that is now dealing with the entire status quo on Cybertron and its colony worlds.

Tramontano’s colors and Pitre-Durocher’s lines immediately establish a look just a little more cartoon-inspired than the parallel Transformers and Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye books. While the stories, just like in Windblade, are political thrillers that deal in death and betrayal, the art reminds us that by the standards of this war-torn universe, noir is to them a fairly pleasant distraction. Starscream, the planet’s current sovereign, wastes no time reminding Windblade how she must fail to understand that many of the movers and shakers have survived four million years of war. Even mortal enemies understand each other more deeply than she knows any of them. But conversely, Windblade understands that Starscream’s insecurity is causing him to weaken his own authority with unnecessary punitive measures. The irony of Starscream’s position is that his only basis of power is the perceived legitimacy of his authority, but he’s incapable of wielding it with any dignity or subtlety.

Longtime Decepticon stalwarts the Combaticons are setting themselves up as the antagonists of the first arc, with Onslaught, Blast Off, Vortex, and Brawl seeking the corpse of their fifth member, Swindle (paying off a Combiner Wars story point). This is another strong choice by Scott, as they’ve been off the board for a while, but both in this universe and the original cartoon they have had memorable runs as dangerous but not exactly world-ending villains. Team leader Onslaught was always described as a brilliant tactician, but he never got a chance to show this off in any particular story till now. Scott picks up on this to make him a formidable opponent for Starscream and Windblade in this Byzantine new Cybertron. Long-neglected Blast Off is brought to the forefront in an essential role.

Check out this book for giving us what Transformers: Windblade and Transformers: Robots in Disguise have been teasing: an eclectic mix of Transformers from all generations trying to actually solve their problems and live together. Or, you could think of it as a lighter Battlestar Galactica, complete with unexplained hallucinations of dead people and dramatic council meetings.

Joe Stando is reading…

Batman #2

Written by Tom King

Art by David Finch (pencils), Matt Banning and Danny Miki (inks) and Jordie Bellaire (colors)

Lettered by John Workman

DC Comics

“I’ve been watching you. You’re good. You’re doing good. Do better.”

Batman #1 was a solid look at challenges even the sheer will of Batman cannot conquer without giving his life. The last page set up this larger story, about a world in which Batman could be rendered obsolete by the new superhuman crime fighters Gotham and Gotham Girl.

It’s an interesting idea, and one I’m looking forward to, even if it’s almost certainly going to end in betrayal and/or death. This issue starts to look at Batman’s dynamic with the new duo, as he begins to trust them and bring them into his circle. Finch’s look for the two is great, a deliberately ornate, clunky take on Superman and Supergirl. They’re very much classic superhero archetypes, not edgier or more extreme than Batman but simply stronger, faster, and with abilities like flight and ultravision. Gordon’s in top form here, too, looking like his rumpled old self post-Superheavy and acting like it, too. With a more relaxed, optimistic Batman, someone has to pick up the baton for cynicism, and the wry humor King gives Gordon is perfect.

The first issue of this run was a strong solo story, so this issue necessarily does some of the heavy lifting setting up the plot. I don’t know how Gotham and Gotham Girl are going to come together with Hugo Strange and the rumored Monster Men, or how it will impact Duke’s ongoing arc. But as the beginning of something bigger, I liked this week’s issue a lot.

Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!

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