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.
Max Robinson is reading…
The Flintstones #3
Written by Mark Russell
Art by Steve Pugh
Colored by Chris Chuckry
“Wait — Did they just kill a chimp to impress a bunch of eighth graders?”
Three issues in and DC’s 2016 take on America’s Modern Stone Age Family continues to be…. Well, extremely weird.
The good news is, it’s a very funny book. Russell crams this issue with a ton of great gags, beginning with a caveman Carl Sagan shooting an astronaut chimp into “space” before segueing into puking teen aliens showing up and generally wrecking Bedrock. Similarly, Pugh’s design work continues to impress me: character looks feel weirdly reverent to the original cartoon while branching out when needed (Pugh’s takes on pre-teen Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm in particular are very cool). Overall, the issue’s the kind of solid caper you’d want.
The real problem with the issue, and the book as a whole, continues to be tone. Russell’s scripts are full of sharp, black humor but much of it doesn’t land with the grace it needs to. Flintstones as a title goes hard on Fred and his pals being war veterans who deal with very real life issues (depression, suicide, homelessness). It’s a really compelling and bold approach for this kind of material, but what could be really fertile ground for metaphor and exploration is undercut within a panel or a page by broad gags. It’s especially frustrating because Russell’s Prez would routinely pull off heavy dramatic beats amidst very silly jokes. Russell/Pugh’s Flintstones remains a surprisingly ambitious and adult take on one of Hanna-Barbera’s safer cartoons, but it needs to decide what kind of comic it wants to be, and it needs to do so quickly.
Joe Stando is reading…
Rise of the Black Flame #1
Written by Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson
Art by Christopher Mitten and Dave Stewart (colors)
Lettered by Clem Robins
Dark Horse Comics
“I do hope this business is worth the gin I had to leave behind.”
The Hellboy universe of comics has become a vast, sprawling thing, with a new prequel or spin-off by a new team with Mignola’s blessing nearly every month. I’ve honestly lost track of it, for the most part. Hellboy was dead, and maybe now he isn’t. The BPRD was a big deal, they may have been shut down a few times, who knows. The point is that the best stories set in this world use the established elements to build something new and interesting, fitting in the vein of the stories that came before without being choked out by their continuity and intricacy.
Rise of the Black Flame teams Mignola with Chris Roberson and Christopher Mitten, as well as longtime collaborator Dave Stewart, for a story about an earlier incarnation of BPRD villain the Black Flame. It’s a mystery story set in 1920s Burma and Siam, and it follows Sgt. McAllister and Constable Sandhu, two investigators in the model of Doyle or Poe, as they search for missing girls and a secretive cult.
Outside of a jaw-dropping opening that traces the Black Flame’s legacy in reverse, and a few flashbacks, this opening issue is pretty dry. It’s also incredibly engaging. Roberson and Mitten deftly build tension and atmosphere during the leads’ continent-spanning investigation, creating a sense of intrigue and dread without an overuse of monsters or fisticuffs. It’s a Hellboy story — we KNOW there will be some kind of big worm or skeleton or skeleton worm coming. The creators don’t rush to that point, instead letting us get to know the players and the stakes. The growing unease as they realize they’re being followed and watched is great, and the table is set for whatever unholy activities are coming next. It’s enjoyable and accessible even without a deep knowledge of the universe, and I’m glad I checked it out.
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!