Billionaire Island #3 continues to shoot straight and true at its various targets, with corporate America as its prime target. The way corporate America runs its affairs across the globe, it’s no wonder that these business behemoths are easily satirised given the under-handed, unethical ways just a few big multinationals have been able to mould the world and the way we work and play to suit their own agenda. One that often leaves a trail of blood and heartache in its path. But, Mark Russell and Steve Pugh would rather have you laugh at this rather than share your fist impotently. And, it’s paying dividends in Billionaire Island #3 as we witness this lucky few who have escaped from the hamster-wheel of life (literally!) and make their way across the playground island, of the ultra-wealthy, called Freedom Unlimited, in hopes of escaping.
The sins of the one percenters are all too close to reality and fittingly contemporary, with a litany of crimes against humanity listed in this issue reading as though they were freshly ripped from real-world newspapers. We learn that the cover star of this issue is a stowaway more than happy to live in secret on this island and living off the scraps from whatever washes up to shore, and thereby allowing Russell to include indirect commentary on our over-reliance of so much material possessions and fast-fashion. All cleverly worked into the narrative with ease.
Pugh, much known for his multi-layered and textured artwork offers up a more scaled-back style that allows each character the expressive space needed for such an emotionally-charged book. His leaning more towards realism that other comic book artists also provides this over-the-top comic some grounding in reality. After all, Freedom Unlimited is a Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory for the super rich, and while the corporate practices of these individual Masters of the Universe are all too real and sickening, the island upon which the action unfolds is HR Pufnstuf level surreal (Just wait till you get a good look at the Chairman in this issue; a true leader of the pack), and needs the sensibilities of Pugh’s art to keep it from falling too far into the realms of pure fantasy. It works really, really well and his under-reliance these days on multi-layered, deeply textured art comes across as crisp and clean while knowing when to apply the right amount of shade and shadow to proceedings too. Like many of his peers (I;m looking at the likes of you Lima Sharp), Ought continues to grow and evolve and frankly, is producing some of the best art of his career. And that’s saying something from a man who’s been hitting out if the park for a fair few decades now. Being something of an accomplished writer these days helps too when coming to translate the script onto page, I imagine.
A comic book that many will see as prophetic when what it really is, for anyone watching the news with even one eye, is yet another great example of contemporary satire on social evils that seem to only get worse and worse in comic book form as these issues are majestically blown out of all proportion. Or so you’d think. It only feels prophetic because there really aren’t too many comics out there willing to call out such social evils and in such an entertaining way too. Thank the gods for creators like Russell and Pugh who walk that very difficult line of satire without any dryness or preaching. Russell is comicdom’s answer to Naomi Klein (No Logo), but with far more gags.
Billionaire Island #3 is available now from AHOY Comics