This week sees the return of Image Comics’ satirical, dystopic series Bitch Planet, written by Kelly Sue de Connick and illustrated by Valentine de Landro; following on from last issue’s depiction of Kam and her team of inmates’ first Megaton practice, #5 sees the women have their first hands-on experience, with tragic consequences.
The inmates have a proper run-through of Megaton, the brutal and potentially fatal sport in which they are forced to participate, given supposed free reign to defend themselves against custodial officers. It’s great seeing the women excel and be formidable forces against the men who actively oppress them, but the scenes are violent and at times hard to read. What becomes most apparent is the spin the media has on commentating the match; when a character is ceremoniously slammed to the ground- with the guard shouting “Who’s laughing now?” the commentator tells the viewers at home that it “looks like she lost her footing.” Nothing and no one is to be trusted, and nobody- even our hero Kam- is safe.
The dialogue is at once hilarious and terrifying; when inmates are referred to as “lost girls” or when newscasters call their co-anchors “sweetheart” it is easy to laugh given the absurdity of their usage, but these slurs that devalue and belittle these women serve to remind us of how prevalent such thinking is in reality. For example, there are arguably people in the world who believe women suffer from “hormonal, sometimes even chromosomal imbalances.” With its bombastic, futuristic dystopia setting, Bitch Planet may feel exaggerated and like a totally different universe, but it is more frighteningly astute than one may assume. It would be laugh out loud hilarious if it wasn’t so rooted in reality.
Including a little profile with the inmates’ names, backgrounds and reason for interment is a nice touch; seeing the absurd and vague crimes these women have committed gives the reader further insight into how corrupt the regime really is, charging Kat with “seduction and disappointment” and Nut with “patrilineal dishonour.” It also serves as a good way to remind us about the inmates as the story progresses between each Bitch Planet installment. What is also interesting is seeing how the series’ most powerful men trat the women in their lives; whether it’s the director’s affectionate interaction with his wife about their daughter’s dating life or Makato justifying his terrible actions to his wife, it is important for the reader to see the men behind this dangerous patriarchal regime behind closed doors.
Compared to previous Bitch Planet instalments, it feels as if #5 has less action and story development throughout; there are, however, many action scenes depicting the inmates as they prepare for megaton. And then there’s the cliff hanger…
This issue’s conclusion is pretty harrowing and has huge emotional resonance. Without revealing too many spoilers, the final panels demonstrate how powerful the patriarchal forces are in destroying these women’s lives and how transient and unstable the regime renders each inmate’s very existence. The consequences of this scene will affect the characters and throw a huge spanner in the works. You may be a little shell-shocked at the end. Curse you, De Connick!
As always, one of Bitch Planet’s best features is its post-comic content, which seems to have increased in size with every issue. #5 features a superb essay by writer and performer Lindy West entitled “Hi! I’m Lindy West and I’m a victim,” which explores the idea of victimhood, namely that “victimhood is not the opposite of strength.” Succinct, honest and funny, West’s essay provides Bitch Planet with a stellar conclusion. Then spend hours sifting through the creators’ fan mail, an indulgence that proves uplifting, surprisingly emotional and thought-provoking. Bitch Planet contains so much informative and challenging content and is just a stupendous reading experience.
The quality of De Landro’s art work remains stellar as always; he continues to use bold pinks as a visual motif throughout to illustrate characters spreading misogynistic propaganda- using a colour stereotypically associated with women and femininity to illustrate a monstrous projection that oppresses and demonises women- while maintaining his realistic depiction of women’s bodies to counteract the way in which some comic book artists exploit and exaggerate the female form.
#5 proves to be yet another stellar outing for Bitch Planet, with the dialogue as razor sharp as always and thought-provoking art work. The plot is eventful and at times shocking with a real emotional weight in its sudden twists and turns, especially given the events of the last few pages. Bitch Planet is a challenging, darly funny and necessary comic book; few other writers and artists are creating content as rich and important as De Connick and De Landro. The future’s pink, but hopefully Kam and her fellow inmates can tear down the regime before it’s too late.
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Drawn by Valentine De Landro
Letters by Clayton Cowles
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Jonny Stone is a Glaswegian writer who loves comic books, live music and was THIS close to doing a dissertation on Storm’s hair.