Writer: Mark Russell
Art: Steve Pugh
Publisher: Ahoy Comics
WHAT IS IT?
Holy $#!* where do I even begin? I think most people can agree: climate change is real and it is bad, yes? We also know that part of the issue with climate change (among other things that I will touch on later) is overpopulation. What happens when billionaires are able to influence overpopulation and drastically change the course of the United States? Enter Billionaire Island.
Billionaire Island is literally your worst thoughts of the one percent, maybe just a *teensy* bit amplified.
The Day After Tomorrow meets Mark Zuckerberg's personal eugenics project in a comic that will enrage you, yet keep you thoroughly engrossed with every turn of the page.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
In 2044, the United States is largely underwater due to climate change, and the country has changed dramatically. The poor are very much still poor and those who are not billionaires are in dire straits. Rick Canto, the owner of Aggrocorp, is the head billionaire in charge and promoting “Freedom Unlimited," an artificial island in the Gulf of Mexico. The only residents are billionaires (and the help), able to what they want when they want and without any government interference.
To get on the island, you will need to prove your net worth of being a billionaire. If you can’t prove it, well, in the words of Canto, “So say adios to unwanted refugees and immigrants!”
Unfortunately for Canto, someone who is not a billionaire is about to board the island: a man that is out for revenge on anyone involved with Aggrocorp and will do whatever it takes to reach Canto and the others on Freedom Unlimited.
Meanwhile, a reporter named Shelly Bly sets up an interview with Canto to discuss his business dealings, Freedom Unlimited, and his role in the Food Aid Program in Angola that led to many deaths. For her troubles, Bly is invited to Freed Unlimited with Canto and uncovers what could be her most dangerous story yet.
Russell’s writing is gripping. Quite honestly, the premise of this story is one of the best I have read this year.
Days after reading the first issue, it has stuck with me and I am constantly thinking back to what this comic is emphasizing.
The creators only provide us with a small peek of what is to come, but the first issue does an incredible job of setting up all the main players and where their arcs may take them.
We all know in the real world that billionaires can do what they want and act like philanthropists to create a facade that they care about the future of our planet. You know, tax write-offs and whatnot. Rick Canto is our worst thoughts of billionaires put to paper, only amplified by 100.
What makes this so unnerving is because as the reader, I actually buy into the real possibility of someone like Canto creating a scenario where they kill thousands to save themselves and their rich friends.
I was flabbergasted that billionaires set up this island as an escape for climate change only after they ravaged the country and blamed the issue on other people...classic.
The art by Pugh is excellent. He is able to perfectly capture the emotions that regular people are experiencing due to the anguish they are in because of Canto and friends.
On the flip side, he expertly provides life to the one-percenters like Canto and makes them as smarmy and detestable as you could have imagined them.
The panel layouts are interesting. I think it was a great idea to have panels overlap each other to guide the reader through the page, as Pugh takes a lot of liberty when illustrating each page.
The colors by Chuckry were very well done. On my second read-through, I started to notice how he would darken each panel if something nefarious was happening to a character and provide vibrant colors when characters were feeling particularly chipper.
I think the best part of this comic is the empathy you can feel for the characters who were tricked, abused, and slaughtered by the rich. There were people who genuinely believed in their mission but were duped and just left to deal with the consequences.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
I wish we knew more about the man seeking revenge. Mainly a name. I just want to know what to call him.
There are some cursing and strong language, so be prepared if that is not your thing.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
You may be familiar with Russell and Pugh’s work on The Flintstones series, which I have not read but heard incredibly positive reviews about. Personally, this was my introduction to each of their work and I am floored. This first issue does a lot of building and setting the reader up for what is to come, but in no way does it feel forced or rushed. In our current political and socio-economic climate, this feels like a particularly on-the-nose comic that is sure to make some readers angry as they observe a potential all-to-real outcome our society could face. However, this comic is WORTH IT and I implore anyone who is reading this to pick up a copy of Billionaire Island. You will not regret it.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Prez by Mark Russell & Ben Caldwell
Second Coming by Mark Russell & Richard Pace
Friendo by Alex Paknadel & Martion Simmonds
If you like the art:
Flintstones by Mark Russell & Steve Pugh
The Visitor by Paul Levitz & MJ Kim
Sex Criminals, Vol. 1 by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Mark Russell – Writer
Dream Team: This is the second time Russell has teamed up with Steve Pugh.
Award Winner: Russell won the 2019 GLADD Award for Outstanding Comic for his work on Exit Stage Left!: The Snagglepuss Chronicles.
Steve Pugh – Artist
Outlander: From the United Kingdom.
Worked on popular titles in the ‘90s such as Hellblazer, Animal Man, and Super-Man vs Terminator.
Chris Chuckry – Colorist
Resides in Winnipeg.
Multitalented: Chris is also an artist and is a college professor.
Rob Steen – Letterer
Has worked on the series Harbringer and X-Men Origins.
HOW DO I READ IT?
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