Monday, 8 January 2018

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1 Review (Mark Russell, Mike Feehan)

Snagglepuss as a closeted gay Southern playwright standing up to systemic oppression in 1950s America? Heavens to Murgatroyd, that sounds like a barrel of laffs! Yeah, it’s a surprisingly serious reboot for the iconic Hanna-Barbera character that’s not even pretending to aim for a kiddie audience which is probably why the first issue isn’t bad. 

Mark Russell is definitely one of DC’s most interesting current writers. I really enjoyed his underrated Prez book and his Flintstones run was surprisingly decent so I’m glad he’s continuing to take fringe DC properties and relaunch them with a fresh, contemporary spin. 

Like The Flintstones, Russell adopts an unexpectedly dark tone for a Hanna-Barbera comic. Gloomy real-life history appears throughout with the paranoid spectre of Cold War tension taking the form of the House Committee of Un-American Activities going after figures in the entertainment industry. The Rosenbergs’ execution and the famous gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, also feature prominently. 

Weirdly, it works quite well for the character as if this was always Snagglepuss’ natural setting! Mark Russell’s writing and Mike Feehan’s art is fine throughout. However, there isn’t much of a story. Nor is Russell doing anything especially original besides dredging up the past and mixing in animal humanoids like Snagglepuss. His subtle commentary is similarly unremarkable and banal: what a dark time in American history! It feels like this could be a very predictable, very safe and disappointingly boring comic if it continues this way. 

That said, there’s potential here to draw parallels with our present-day hysterical witch-hunt atmosphere and equally-unhinged political climate so perhaps the series could get much more interesting down the line if it goes in that direction. I liked the bait-and-switch climax to the issue regarding the middle-aged couple on their date night as well as Huckleberry Hound’s cameo - if Snagglepuss is meant to be Tennessee Williams, is Huckleberry Hound meant to be Truman Capote? 

It didn’t wow me but Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1 wasn’t bad either. And at the very least Mark Russell got me to read a fucking SNAGGLEPUSS comic which I never thought I’d do! Though I’m still interested to see how the story plays out, my expectations are also somewhat tempered after this lukewarm first issue.

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