It’s very easy to get angry at the ultra-wealthy of this world as they swan around the globe flaunting their wealth and often boasting about it as others suffer. But, it can be just as satisfying to simply satirise them, and it’s exactly this tone that is taken by writer Mark Russell and artist Steve Pugh in Billionaire Island #2 from AHOY Comics.
There is no doubt that Russell is one of the few satirical voices in comics today, proving to all naysayers that there is more than enough room in comic for political and social commentary, when done right. And, Russell is certainly forging a career doing just that. A perfect example of this is presented in the opening page of this new issue as we are given a humorously different take on Aliens vs. Predator. You may even recognise the predator from eau life somewhat too. A well aimed shot by artist Pugh, who has a wickedly dry humour himself, and not the only familiar face you’ll come across in the comic.
The main thrust of the story in this issue, however, is focussed on Freedom Unlimited, the island that allows those with enough money and loose – or non-existent – morals to party and the expense of the less fortunate. Which is practically the other 99% of the planet’s population.
With a handy bit of exposition to help readers catch up, we are reminded that this billionaire’s playground is about to be infiltrated by one of the 99%, who has already killed to get here. But, I doubt any reader is going to share a mote of sympathy with the crass tycoons in this over-the-top comic.
Having been brought up on the gonzo UK satire of the 80s, with shows like Spitting Image, The Comics Strip Presents and films like Eat The Rich engrained into my identity, I doubt I am the only one who wants to see the demise of these self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe. I find it very easy to relate to our wolf in wolf’s clothing, hiding in plain sight. Especially as he shares the same fears we all do. And, especially now, with the threat of mass unemployment, increase in poverty and the wealth divide between the very rich and the rest of us widening like a vast chasm of inequality even more thanks to the present pandemic. I doubt even Russell and Pugh could have imagined how prescient this series was going to be.
There’s the self-made man, who has developed an automated office manager, resulting in further job losses and, once again, mimicking the real life problem of automation wiping out jobs. But, as these jobs are usually with the working class sector, it’s ignored. With Russell offering up a scenario in which the middle classes are effected – albeit humorously – it is a stark reminder, like so many other moments in this multi-layered book, of the real and present dangers in our modern, tech-driven society. As for this automated office manager,? Well, it “mostly writes passive aggressive emails” to employees.
Although some of those enslaved by Canto, the megalomaniac owner of this playboys’ island, are the seem only too happy to serve their masters (again, mimicking real-life and many of us ‘wage-slavs’ when you really, really break it down).
But, it’s the humour and well crafted one-liners the come thick and fast across the course of the issue that will stop you from reaching boiling point when considering l the injustices presented in just this one issue. All of this, and plenty of action too, as you’d expect from a funny book. That, and a recipe for a rather delicious looking cake. A very rich looking cake. Hey, maybe I can eat the rich after all!
Billionaire Island #2 is out now from AHOY Comics