Review: Bitch Planet #4
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art: Valentine De Landro
This week sees the return of Image Comics’ satirical, dystopic series Bitch Planet, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and illustrated by Valentine de Landro; following on from last issue’s depiction of Penny’s back story, the black comedy focuses on Kamau and the other inmates of the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost as they are assembled to take part in a potentially dangerous competitive exercise named Megaton.
Bitch Planet #3 sees Kamau present her troupe to take part in Megaton- consisting of “cheetah girl” Meiko and the gloriously colossal Penny Rolle- upon realising with the help of a fellow inmate that she is right to mistrust those who asked her to participate. New character Fanny suggests that she has been assigned to accumulate the strongest prisoners to make their disposal easier for the regime, and the conclusion reminds us why Kamau is enduring the Megaton at all.
As always, the dialogue is razor sharp and the story is so full of depth and complex characters. Humour permeates throughout Bitch Planet; with hilarious segues including “Obligatory shower scene” and the women’s celebratory chat after their first Megaton practice. The highlight is certainly Megaton 101, in which a pair of freakishly distorted guides named Hailey and Kailey talks us through the ins and outs of the event. Reading like the Battle Royale training video, the spiel includes barbs such as “Single ladies, just imagine the gleam in his eye when you fool him into thinking you share his passion!”
There is an abundance of poignancy throughout Bitch Planet, however, that grounds the humour and reminds us once again that the black comedy reflects grim reality. The reader is presented with an enormous database of women’s names and the crimes that landed them on Bitch Planet, including political incitement, gender treason, ego dysmorphia and ‘terminal hysteria,’ a once-common medical condition from which women were believed to have suffered. Furthermore, Miss Whitney- whose allegiance remains as ambiguous as ever- must wear a mask in the office; explaining that “Exposed skin builds trust,” she demonstrates that even subordinate women are subjected to oppression just as much as the prisoners.
De Landro’s art work remains as beautiful and striking as always; he captures human emotion perfectly, seen particularly in the post-training shower scene in which the women are laughing and celebrating each other as Miss Whitney looks on with the saddest eyes. This captured moment is heartbreaking as she looks on at the solidarity that remains intact despite their adversity. Furthermore, there are so many interesting moments throughout Bitch Planet that challenge the use of the sexualised female form as seen in comic books: Fanny, for example, utilises male fetishism for lesbian sensuality against the Peeping Tom guards to share information, just as Kamau acts seductively and sensually to attack the guard gawking at her through the showers, exposing his tiny tiny penis. He continues to use pink- every girl’s favourite colour- as a visual motif to illustrate a monstrous projection that oppresses and demonises women.
The art work, story and dialogue compliment each other perfectly, channelling old school exploitation movies and pulp fiction and futuristic sci-fi to achieve a perfect cautionary dystopic tale. Bitch Planet is darkly funny, provocative and beautifully illustrated. Astute and thoroughly engaging, it is Image’s best title published today.