Bitch Planet #1 Review

Bitch Planet #1 isn’t your overly sexualized women’s prison male fantasy, but a disturbingly gritty punch to the gut.

Official description from IMAGE:
2014 Best Writer Eisner Award nominee KELLY SUE DeCONNICK (PRETTY DEADLY, Captain Marvel) and VALENTINE DE LANDRO (X-Factor) team up for the very third time to bring you the premiere issue of BITCH PLANET, their highly-anticipated women-in-prison sci-fi exploitation riff. Think Margaret Atwood meets Inglorious Basterds.

Bitch Planet #1 is light on the sci-fi but in your face with the defiance. Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick paints an ugly and realistic story of women behind bars that’s a statement on feminism and self-worth in an oppressive bleak future. DeConnick is well-known for her strong female leading characters from Captain Marvel to Ginny in Pretty Deadly and Bitch Planet establishes not one, but multiple no non-sense leading ladies. While the plot is set on a futuristic Earth, the sci-fi takes a back seat for the time being but has it’s moments as well. Readers are dropped in the middle of a new crop of female prisoners and their intake to a “auxiliary compliance outpost” on another world otherwise known as Bitch Planet.

BITCH PLANET #1 CoverHere DeConnick introduces readers to 3 main female prisoners. Penny Rolle, Kamau Kogo and Marin Collins. Jail isn’t pretty and neither are the new residents. But they are real, not some male driven caged-heat. Penny is insanely tough and demonstrates her “non-compliance” from the start along with a statement tattoo that reads “Born Big.”  The story starts to grab hold with Marin who is the one very vocal, yet scared, detainee who screams innocence for all to hear, now faced with her new reality. But like most shady prisons the guards are more villainous than the inmates. Kamau adds the action and heroism by taking up for those who can’t, won’t or are too afraid.

DeConnick uses a great storytelling device for the exposition of Marin’s insistence of her innocence by crosscutting Marin’s side of the story with her husband’s. The latter of which is pleading to the administrator of the jail that she has been unfairly imprisoned. Marin is sent to “The Catholic,” a hi-tech hologram, to confess her sins and this is where the sci-fi is on full display. “The Catholic” also represents the sex and negative stereotypes DeConnick is trying to erase of women in comics. The underlying tone is ominous and the other prisoners sense that the time is right to change the discourse with the “Council of Fathers.”  This is all about empowerment and the challenge of nonconformity against the will of men.

Artist Valentine De Landro‘s real-world, simple design makes this book feel less hi-tech sci-fi and more gritty ‘70’s pulp exploitation. There’s plenty of the nude female form and De Landro treats them with honesty and diversity. Illustrating that women in comics DO come in all shapes, sizes and color. Many of De Landro’s panel layout gives the book a quick pace to match the tempo of DeConnick’s writing and his honest and diverse art of the female nude form is a breath of fresh air in the crowded over-sexualized take of many female comic characters. The line work is bold and the colors tend to favor the muted tones which blends neatly with the gritty story. Great use of panel design keeps the pages flowing to DeConnick’s quick up tempo pace.

It would be easy to pigeonhole this book as a feminist soapbox and the possibility exists to alienate men but, to pass up Bitch Planet #1 for something so trivial would be a tremendous mistake. DeConnick is taking risks with Bitch Planet #1 as she dives headlong into tackling sex, stereotypes, race, oppression and a whole host of moral and political themes. Some will think she’s gone too far, others, not far enough but, she has the courage to step outside conventional thinking and cut her own path through the thick-headedness of many modern comics. DeConnick and De Landro are off to a great start with something so inventive, fresh and smart.

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