Bitch Planet #1
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by Valentine De Landro and Cris Peter
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics
Review by Vanessa Gabriel
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
How do you take the exploitation inherent to the “Women in Prison” genre fiction and turn it on its head to be an allegory for patriarchal oppression giving way to an unapologetic feminist theme? You do it like Kelly Sue DeConnick, completely on purpose and with intent to provoke your visceral instincts of non-compliance and discerning taste in entertaining comics.
Bitch Planet #1 presents camp and corruption, diversity and deviance, violence and institutionalized oppression wrapped in a tight-knit, sci-fi, supremely executed set-up. Flitting between the powers-that-be and the impotence of incarceration, we see an Earth much like our own, where money and privilege gratify only those who have it. But on Bitch Planet, you’ll forever repent for your noncompliance lest you want your skull cracked.
This ultraviolent, hot pink highlighted first issue, takes us off-planet to the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost – a penal colony of women colloquially known as Bitch Planet. DeConnick hits many of the genre plot elements right on the head. There’s an innocent woman in the mix of forced strip searches and prison guard punishments, the structure of which serves as a clever homage and presents the opportunity to explore the series’ paradox between feminism and exploitation. Both of which DeConnick accomplishes seamlessly.
As the issue moves deeper into the story of our protagonist, each character’s cards are revealed at a methodical pace beautifully justified by a clean, geometrical panel layout. Within those panels, artist Valentine De Landro’s skill shines in his striking use of negative space. As one Marian Collins decries her virtue, and the less virtuous come to her aid with defiant grit and fisticuffs, De Landro’s action sequences channel classic pop-art with the spirit and gloom of grindhouse films. It’s another vehicle of homage and drives straight into a gratifying and engaging climax.
Visual character definition is another of De Landro’s strengths. So often comic characters are distinguished by their costume, but the wardrobe of Bitch Planet is minimal and uniform, and often non-existent, as several panels display the prisoners naked. Therefore it is the nooks and crannies of the human body that distinguish the women of Bitch Planet. These characters don’t fit the mold and the presentation is refreshingly authentic. Wait until you meet Penelope Rolle. With a tattoo that says “Born Big,” I am sure you can imagine she’s takes up a significant space.
Cris Peter’s colors are an integral piece of the tenor and movement throughout the issue. The muted tones of the pixelated backgrounds do wonders at pushing De Landro’s lines forward. Peter uses faded blues and greens to create a callous distance as events unfold on the prison monitors. And the magenta of the tautly corseted, hologram “hostess” of Bitch Planet may be the most definitive and eye-catching color of the issue. Like Bitch Planet, it is opportunely used, and is as haunting as it is kitschy.
The themes, characters and art of Bitch Planet #1 combined evoke an acutely sharp tone of defiance and an unequivocally satisfying first issue. From the “Caged and Enraged!” slogan on the cover to the sticky landing of the final page, this may be one of the most artful accomplishments for DeConnick to date. Bitch Planet’s relevant and resonant mantra of non-compliance bleeds beyond the panels and will inspire you. You want to own this comic. It is going to start a movement.