In this issue we finally get the story – the secret origin, if you like – of Freedom Unlimited island from the lips of its architect and island stowaway, Falco Jakes. As you can imagine, it’s an origin dripping with satire from the ever-keen observational gaze of Mark Russell who has a canny eye for the various ways in which we are all manipulated and kept under foot by the wealthy. It’s a theme that seems to be given further and further credence every day in our mass media, especially at a time when we are all imprisoned by this recent pandemic while our overlords are still free to escape to their own island hideaways and party without a care.
One rule for us, and one rule for them. Usually written by them, in favour of them and their interests too. We all live with a belief we are free, yet comic books like this question this widely held view of reality through fiction. A fiction all too close to reality, once you strip it if its humour and over-the-top situations. Which is what great satire should be. The prisoners trapped in their human hamster cage still believe they are truly free, with one bleating she is not a prisoner, but an executive trainee! We are all slaves to our pay-masters at the end of the day, aren’t we? All running on our own metaphorical hamster cages that Russell so knowingly makes a reality in Billionaire Island #5.
As we are informed of the building of this billionaires’ island, we also catch up with events in the present and the attempts at escape that are going better than imagined. As ever Steve Pugh’s more realistically portrayed characters adds a certain veneer of realism to events that only help emphasis the humour and ridiculous situations the cast fid themselves in. It’s one of the elements that made The Flinstones the stand out title from that whole run of Hannah-Barbera re-imaginings from a few years ago.
In recounting the island’s formation, Russell is able to fire a salvo of satirical shots across the bough with jokes at the expense of the mega-rich, who act as the faces of the faceless corporations that shape our lives in so many ways. The building of Freedom Unlimited is a story told across the globe even to this day: cheap immigrant workers, cost-cutting and “industrial accidents” all in the pursuit of the highest yield. Look at the history of any country and you’ll see a foundation built on slavery. Freedom Unlimited is no different. Like Homer Simpson so eloquently put it, “It’s funny because it’s true.” We just wished it wasn’t.
The ending of this penultimate issue suggests that it’s always darkest before dawn, but what the new day will bring is a question to be answered in the series’ finale, next issue. Unlike in life, I do hope these social elites meet with a fate worthy of their crimes agents humanity. After all, it’s only in our media that these lot get any sort of comeuppance they deserve. At least Russell and Pugh have us laughing. After all, what’s the alternative?*
Billionaire Island #5 is out now from AHOY Comics.
* Answer: Revolution, that’s the answer. Who’s with me?