I don’t want to get off on a rant here, but there’s something oddly surreal about reading a comic like Billionaire Island in the build-up to the American election, as a plague ravishes the planet. As I write this, there’s currently a war among what is commonly known as The American Left as to who will rally the forces of righteousness in what is somehow a losing battle against a game show host turned populist plutocrat. Said celebrity just put America’s efforts to fight the viral outbreaks under the supervision of a former governor whose solution to the largest HIV outbreak in his state’s history was, as it is with most things, to pray for a miracle.
The cruel irony is that Mark Russell and Steve Pugh, like many satirists, are having a hard time keeping pace with reality and the future depicted in Billionaire Island doesn’t seem quite as outrageous as the insanity of the real world today. The conceit of a mobile island where anything goes that is open only to the ultra-rich and defended by drones and soldiers that prevent any pesky poor people or IRS auditors from even coming close to it doesn’t seem like an outrageous contrivance of science fiction in a world where rich radio hosts regularly flee to island vacations in locales famous for catering to pedophiles or where white-supremacist YouTube stars actively hinder refugee rescue efforts. But I digress.
The point must be made that if you are the sort of person who is more concerned about the effect the Coronavirus will have on your stock portfolio than the number of lives lost, Billionaire Island is probably not going to be your cup of tea. Russell and Pugh are as vicious as ever and not particularly subtle in how they point out the simple reality that most rich people are total bastards with no scruples. To give you some idea of the humor of this issue, the proper name of the titular resort is Freedom Unlimited and the drones protecting are labeled F.U. ISLAND.
Working past the premise, this is a solid first issue that is sure to satisfy those who enjoyed Pugh and Russell’s previous collaborative work on The Flintstones. Russell’s script establishes the concept of Freedom Unlimited easily enough and introduces two relatable protagonists who have their own reasons for trying to bring it down. The script is funny and, as in The Flintstones, Pugh sneaks a lot into the background. Pugh’s art and inks are as skillfully shaped as ever, with the colors of Chris Chuckry and the letters of Rob Steen adding a splendid level of polish to the finished product.
While Billionaire Island is unlikely to be a hit with anyone who has a vested interest in pretending trickle-down economics work, Pugh and Russell have once again proven themselves capable of crafting a high-quality funny book. I guarantee this will provide you working stiffs with a few minutes distraction from the existential horror of your increasingly bleak existence. Enjoy!