DC’s Hanna-Barbera train keeps pushing along. Let’s see how these creators reinterpret everybody’s favorite family from the retro-future. Some spoilers coming up!
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti
Illustrated by Pier Brito
Colored by Alex Sinclair
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
Meet George Jetson, a family man living an analog life in a digital world. His wife, Jane, is a brilliant NASA scientist working off-world at a conference, his daughter Judy is a social butterfly trying to discover her calling, and his boy Elroy is either doing homework or using robotic technology to break the rules. Strangest of all, George’s mother has downloaded herself into Rosie the robot! Join this postmodern family as doom rockets toward them from the outer reaches of the galaxy on a crash course of destruction!
DC’s Hanna-Barbera books have taken their properties in all sorts of directions, from satirical comedy to gritty post-apocalyptic action to straightforward sitcom. Palmiotti chooses to go with a family drama for “The Jetsons,” working with Brito and Sinclair to fold in bits of all those other genres as well.
This introductory issue is structured like cartoon’s theme song: “Meet George Jetson! His boy Elroy! Daughter Judy! Jane, his wife!” While not in that order, we get a solo scene for each of the characters defining who they are and how they’re living in this futuristic world. The family members have their adventures completely separate from one another with only small tangential relations. Even Sinclair’s colors and Brito’s art give each vignette its own separate visual identity: Elroy’s deep blue underwater adventures and Jane’s space drama contrast heavily against George and Judy’s terrestrial sequences. On one hand, this clear separation between scenes works to establish everyone individually. On the other hand, it doesn’t exactly give us an idea of what the family is like when they’re together. Still, this issue can be seen as an ensemble story, and it seems everyone’s exploits will weave in and out of each other as the miniseries progresses. In terms of doing the hard first issue work of establishing characters, everything works.
Developed almost as if it were itself a character, Palmiotti and the art team have carefully realized the future of “The Jetsons.” It’s definitely not the idealized late-50s/early-60s version of the future that the original cartoon based its future on, nor is it exactly the sort of post-apocalyptic future that has come into vogue over the last few decades. “The Jetsons” takes elements of both. For instance, all man-made structures and vehicles still float above the ocean as in those retro-futuristic designs. But whereas the original designs had no real explanation, here it’s because a meteor rose the sea levels and pushed all of the Earth’s land underwater.
This particular detail actually shapes the entire visual world, with Sinclair making heavy use of different shades of blue and Brito throwing in many floating structures in his backgrounds. It also shapes the emotional world of the characters, as they attempt to live normal lives and rail against potential future menaces. Further, this also shows Palmiotti’s eye for realism and understanding of human ingenuity, implying both that these sorts of tragedies will continue to occur far into the future, and that humans will always rise to meet the challenges those tragedies present.
Working with this future they have created, the creators are able to dig deeper to explore other potential issues and attitudes of the future. Admittedly, some are fairly well-trodden tropes, like that of George’s mother Rosie having downloaded her consciousness into a robot. Despite covering familiar territory, though, Palmiotti always finds a way to approach things with a soft humanist edge. Rosie, for instance, weighed the pros and the cons and decided to make her decision and deal with the repercussions. Remarkably, it doesn’t play itself out as pages upon pages of angst. It just presents itself as a new opportunity for a new perspective.
Those who followed the Hanna-Barbera books in the past are probably wondering how this book measures up to last year’s surprise hit, “The Flintstones,” especially considering that the original Jetsons cartoon is seen as a companion to the Flintstones cartoon. In all honesty, the books take such wholly different approaches that they really shouldn’t be compared as if in the same category. “The Flintstones” used satirical absurdism to make its social commentary. Conversely, “The Jetsons” takes a more earnest approach. Instead of having a literal caveman become the mayor, Palmiotti has Elroy and a friend dive through a sunken metropolis to retrieve an old painting as a gift for his father. They’re two completely different ways of going about a similar end goal, and they’ll have different levels of effectiveness for different people.Continued below
Brito has a distinctly European style that isn’t seen too often at mainstream publishers. Fitting in nicely with Palmiotti’s depiction of the future, it’s a nice midpoint between 50s sleekness and modern grit. There’s a sense of solidity to Brito’s figure outlines and a consistency to his line thickness, but if you look closer you notice that his lines gives off almost the quality of graphite around the edges. More apparent is the hatching he employs, light enough that it’s not overpowering yet frequent enough that it gives the book a look all its own. Props to DC for going with such an asynchronous artist here.
All told, “The Jetsons” offers some solid introductions and interesting depictions of the future, even if not all of the story threads are coming together quite yet. I imagine opinions will vary widely on this book, especially given its mostly ordinary, down to earth tone. As for me personally? I had a good time visiting these ordinary residents of the future, and I’m looking forward to seeing the characters get together in the next issue.
Final Verdict: 7.5 – Even with no particularly groundbreaking concepts and a cast that spends most of the issue in separate situations, Palmiotti and Brito have built up a satisfying world and established a down-to-earth tone that I can get behind.