Bitch Planet #1
Kelly Sue DeConnick – Script
Valentine De Landro – Art/Covers
Cris Peter – Colors
Clayton Cowles – Letters
Review by Joey Braccino
“Non-Compliance is NOT recommended…”
The premise behind Bitch Planet, Kelly Sue DeConnick’s latest series from Image, is quite simple: imagine a planet where women are forced to live in an oppressive setting under the watchful eye of controlling, armed men. These women are sent there for various reasons, ranging from “legitimate” crimes to essentially being cast aside by adulterous husbands, but the overarching sense is that these women of varying shapes, colors, and sizes are deemed unworthy of existing in the general society.
Granted, Bitch Planet is written and illustrated as dystopian science-fiction, but if the description above doesn’t strike you as uncannily similar to our society, then I recommend you turn on the TV or sign on to twitter or go tumbl or something because Kelly Sue DeConnick is clearly seeking to empower, enrage, and engage from page 1, panel 1.
Bitch Planet is equal parts Orange is the New Black and Brave New World. The actual “Bitch Planet” is an Auxiliary Compliance Outpost where “sinful” women (murderers, radicals, doctors, etc.) are sent to learn to comply with acceptable societal behavior. The new prisoners (let’s be real; that’s what these women are) last about 2 minutes in the oppressive situation before a riot occurs, in which dozens of naked women resist their new situation and fight back against their male guards. Of course, as the book progresses, the actual setting of the prison serves as a literal manifestation of a larger society of patriarchal, misogynistic behavior. I won’t reveal too much about certain characters like Penny Rolle and Marian Collins and Kamau Kogo, but suffice it to say that as the realities of Bitch Planet are revealed—the reasons for why some of these women are imprisoned, what the outpost is actually used for (and by whom), and what happens to the “non-compliant”—the larger political and metaphorical implications of this daring new series become clearer and clearer.
The opening page—a loaded 12-panel page from Valentine De Landro—is layered with subtle allusions to the complicated sexism of the culture in Bitch Planet. Advertisements for extreme weight loss and body image alterations litter the buildings as a woman runs to a recording studio. When the woman arrives (after being berated by the studio manager), it is revealed that she is actually there to record the ominous, evil narration for the flight in to Bitch Planet. The recording’s religious undertones are apparent as she speaks of the prisoners’ “trespasses… gluttony…weakness…and wickedness” and the efforts to prevent their “sickness” from spreading. On the one hand, we see the depths to which the controlling interests use religious language to denigrate its female victims; on the other hand, we see the extent to which the women of the society are coached and controlled into victimizing each other. Again, though DeConnick and De Landro are clearly working in the genre of science-fiction and dystopia, the symbolism and criticism implicit in Bitch Planet is readily accessible to any reader without being overtly heavy-handed or preachy.
Valentine De Landro’s artwork is absolutely stunning. His pulpy, heavy inks are perfect for DeConnick’s moody, aggressive narrative. De Landro is also able to capture the diversity of the ensemble cast in his figurework, altering the shapes, sizes, and designs of each character. I remember De Landro’s work on Peter David’s long run on X-Factor from a few years back, and I can honestly say that I’ve never seen his work look so damn good. De Landro used to struggle with finishes and crowd scenes, but Bitch Planet is filled with some of the finest detail and most chaotic panels I’ve ever seen in comics. Cris Peter’s vibrant colors—pinks, greens, purples, blues—lends the book it’s distinctly sci-fi feel, which clashes nicely with De Landro’s noir sentimentalities.
BUY. Hell yes “buy.” 2014 will go down as the Year of KSD, and Bitch Planet is the perfect cap on a banner year for one of Talking Comics’ favorite creators. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro’s new series is politically and creatively invigorating, and it is most definitely one of the most exciting new series going into 2015. Check it!