Zeb Larson reviews Bitch Planet #1…
2014 Best Writer Eisner Award nominee KELLY SUE DeCONNICK (PRETTY DEADLY, Captain Marvel) and VALENTINE DE LANDRO (X-Factor) team up for the very third time to bring you the premiere issue of BITCH PLANET, their highly-anticipated womenin- prison sci-fi exploitation riff. Think Margaret Atwood meets Inglourious Basterds.
Bitch Planet is a book the world desperately needs. Kelly Sue Deconnick has written this series to cast light on the treatment of women. I would call this series dystopian fiction, except that aspects of it exist in contemporary society anyway. She’s also framed the book as a women-in-prison story, with all of the juicy exploitation that we’ve come to expect.
The premise of Bitch Planet is fairly simple. Women who commit crimes or trespass against society’s rules (many of which govern appearance and demeanor) are sent to live on a prison planet. This prison planet also functions as a reality show for those living on earth, who can get their kicks watching the violence and exploitation. Marian Collins is our introduction to this brutal system, as she is sent here after failing to be “compliant” for her husband. Through her eyes, we see this system and the men who govern it, along with a potential “star” for the TV show: Kamau Kogo.
Bitch Planet is a hysterically funny comic, but not because it spends its time telling kneeslappers or throwing a lot of witty dialogue around. No, what makes the book so funny is that it showcases all of our misogynistic behavior and actions by puffing them up to comical proportions. We may not literally put women on shuttles and shoot them to another planet for dressing or acting a certain way, but as Danielle Henderson points out in some notes for the book, women can be judged for dressing or weighing a certain amount. Merciless criticism and the expectation that women be submissive is the prison we’ve built, all of which can be backed up with the implicit threat of violence.
Image is advertising this book as a combination of Margaret Atwood and ‘70s exploitation films, and that feels very accurate in this first issue. The artwork certainly has the feel of the latter influence. Everything has a ‘70s vibe to it, especially with Kamau Kogo’s character. The first thing that leapt to my mind when looking at her was Pam Grier, both in terms of the look as well as her bad-ass fighting style. The dialogue is also reminiscent of exploitation and women-in-prison films with how crude it is: lines such as “Where’m I s’posed to put my tits!” really hammer it home.
It would be fair to say that Atwood’s influence is present in this book as well, but more broadly, Bitch Planet does what intelligent science-fiction is supposed to do. It takes an idea that plenty of people just take for granted, which is men’s supposed natural superiority over women, and it puts the magnifying glass on it. We can see some of our own awful behavior in greater clarity, such as when the heavier woman can’t find a jumpsuit that fits her. Given enough time, it may also start to burn up these destructive ideas. I’m already looking forward to issue #2.