Review: Bitch Planet #1
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art: Valentine de Landro
Image has released the second issue of Bitch Planet- written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and illustrated by Valentine de Landro- the satirical, feminist take on dystopic exploitation movies. The first issue, focused on a relentlessly violent, patriarchal prison system for inconvenient women, received critical acclaim, so there is naturally pressure to reproduce an issue as fresh, funny and frighteningly familiar as the first was.
Picking up from the last issue of Bitch Planet, main protagonist Kamau Kogo has been framed for the state-sanctioned murder of fellow inmate Marion Collins. She undergoes interrogation, initially by The Catholic from #1 and then by Miss Whitney. Without divulging too much information, this unfamiliar female agent makes Kam an offer that has the potential to compromise her dignity and status even further but improve and sustain living conditions for the other prisoners. Meanwhile, the reader gets further insight into the frightening patriarchal hierarchy on Earth as the Father suggests a Hunger Games-esque competition entitled the Megaton to drum up engagement amongst the planet’s inhabitants. The introduction of the “Father” creates a direct link to patriarchy and we discover there is a hierarchy even among the males.
The art work in Bitch Planet is as stellar as in the first issue, with Landro presenting a real visual distinction between the ordinariness of Earth and the bombastic, hyper-real energy of Bitch Planet. He creates exceptionally vivid scenes full of intricate detail you miss upon a casual glance. As compelling and important the foreground drama may be, often what is taking place in the background is equally as intriguing; women outside Bitch Planet, for example, are either subservient to the men, smile maniacally like the newscaster or have their faces concealed by fabric- demonstrating the universality of patriarchy in Bitch Planet- while during Kam’s exercise regime, the enormously likeable Penny instigates a prison riot, with Kam and Violet none the wiser. This is visual story telling at its finest, truly offering a world in which the reader can engage totally with the drama and characters.
The writing remains consistently sharp and the plot, although less action-packed than #1, is still compelling. DeConnick gives us more insight into the character of Kam, who comes across as likeable and will undoubtedly be the one to undermine the harmful patriarchal regime. Plus the dialogue is stellar, especially the scenes between Kam and Whitney in which the latter’s small talk creates such palpable tension. What is most unsettling about the story and comic as a whole is that it isn’t so far removed from reality; as with all great sci-fi and dystopian fiction, the tone may be satirical and the universe bombastic and futuristic, but the core themes of female and racial oppression under patriarchy are vivid reflections of 21st century life.
Miss Whitney is a good addition to the comic, presenting a frightening and untrustworthy villain to add to the roster. She is scary in that she supports and condones this outrageous patriarchy with such conviction. She states “Nothing is compulsory. Free will is paramount. But free will comes with the burden of consequences, Kam. No good Father has ever promised otherwise.” She is a manipulated tool of patriarchy and- alongside The Catholic- functions as a woman against women.
Bitch Planet #2 may not be as action-packed but it is certainly just as visceral, and we receive more insight into the frightening male control suffered by the inmates. Beautifully written and illustrated, Bitch Planet is arguably one of the most compelling, entertaining and provocative comic books of the moment. With the next issue focussing on Penny- which will undoubtedly be hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measure- it is so exciting to see how the series will unfold.