With an ear-and-eye—catching title, and cover art reminiscent of a bygone era’s pulp fiction mag, Bitch Planet starts out the gate running and doesn’t quit. Additionally, one co-creator and writer has the likes of Marvel’s most recent version of Carol Danvers scrapping the honorific Ms. for Captain under her belt.
Kelly Sue DeConnick (notably of Pretty Deadly, in addition to Captain Marvel) is at the helm of this graphic novel, alongside co-creator and artist Valentine De Landro (cover art and ink for issues 1-2; 4) who provides gritty and beautifully-drawn works upon which readers may feast their eyes.
(This is a largely spoiler-free review.)
The basic premise of the series revolves around an off-Earth penal colony for ‘non-compliant women’. We’re not necessarily talking criminals, mind you; some are uniquely incarcerated individuals. Marian, for instance, whose lack of fulfillment of ‘wifely duties’ for her husband (driven into the arms of his mistress), gets her a one-way ticket to what ‘The bureau prefers [to call the] “Auxiliary Compliance Outpost.”’ Everyone else, of course, calls it Bitch Planet.
A group of mostly white, middle-aged and older men (sound familiar?) holds the lion’s share of power in this printed microcosm. Just as it sets the tone of how we live life today, the patriarchy rules supreme in this world, although it’s a smidge more of a hyperbole of today’s ruling class— it’s akin to the world in Margaret Atwood’s seminal and understatedly terrifying classic The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s an uber-patriarchy, not too far removed from the actuality of our own world, and, of course it is just as awful and frightening as it sounds.
Unfortunately, Marian’s grim fate is the catalyst for one of the main character’s plots. Kamau Kogo is an amazing athlete with a satisfying sense of justice and desire to protect her fellow inmates. We don’t learn too much else about Kamau’s backstory, but I cannot wait to read more about this protagonist.
Another notable character is Penelope Rolle. Penny is a result of the broken foster care system. Through Penny we learn another thing that can be a strike against a woman before getting sent to Bitch Planet: Being fat. Penny doesn’t fit the ‘perfect’ mold that society has decided women should adhere to. And while she did assault a number of people, her punishment by far doesn’t fit the crime. Despite what she’s been through, it becomes evident and pleasing that Penny loves herself and is comfortable in her own skin.
Additionally, race also plays an enormous role in BP, and what I especially appreciated was the supplemental discussion guide at the end of the book, which included a segment on Intersectional Feminism. It broaches the subject first by explaining what the term means and how it effects people in the real world and, thus, how it effects the characters as DeConnick injects reality into the story (i.e. the significantly lower incarceration rate of white women versus that of black women).
Like any satire, the parody of society presented in Bitch Planet is simultaneously laughable, dreadfully poignant and, a couple times, frankly depressing. Despite the sci-fi storyline, the scenarios are not always far-fetched. The overall story left me with both a rush and an uneasy feeling, and I am eagerly anticipating the next installment of this comic series.
Bitch Planet does come with an ‘M’ for Mature rating, as its language might not be suitable for all readers, contains a lot of nudity, violence and blood, and it does involve some sexual situations. It’s available from Image Comics. Check their tumblr out here!
Have you given Bitch Planet a read yet? Do you intend to read it in the future? Let us know in the comments below!