Zeb Larson reviews Bitch Planet #3…
“Too Big to Fail” reveals the specific events leading to zaftig Penny Rolle’s incarceration. ROBERT WILSON IV (Knuckleheads) joins KELLY SUE DeCONNICK (PRETTY DEADLY, Captain Marvel) on art duties for this flashback issue.
Bitch Planet is becoming a steamroller of a series, and it’s picking up speed as it goes along. All three issues have been so good that all I can do is just report my amazement with what’s going on in this book and hope that it doesn’t ever let up. This issue focuses on Penny Rolle, the unbelievably badass inmate who is more akin to a force of nature. What makes her such a badass? As it turns out, it’s the simple fact that she’s happy the way that she is and refuses to change.
Penny’s origin story takes place in an interview session with a group of “Fathers,” and her crimes are a combination of assault and “aesthetic offenses,” including “wanton obesity.” They’re convinced that they need to make her happy somehow, and they go back through her life to figure out how to plan her “treatment.” The constant in Penny’s life is her basic contentment with herself and her anger at being forced to be something that she isn’t. Penny doesn’t feel the same about her body that she’s supposed to and resents attempts to shame her about her race, which pushes her into near-constant conflict with the world.
One of the real strengths of this comic is its ability to actually condense patriarchy and patriarchal attitudes into concise sentences. Once they’re in short form, reading them is simultaneously hilarious and horrifying. They’re hilarious because they’re ridiculous and horrifying because there are people who have actually internalized these attitudes. The quote I’m thinking of for this issue is “You need to learn to see yourself through the Fathers’ eyes.” The fact that it comes from another women just reinforces the horror element.
I also really dug the flashback art in this issue. It has a ‘70s comic feel to it, which is useful since it draws clear divides between the past, when dictatorial patriarchy wasn’t quite as strong, and now, when it appears firmly entrenched. Robert Wilson IV is the guest artist on this issue and he does a good job with the back-and-forth
Intersectionality is also at the heart of this comic book, which I appreciate. Penny faces constant obstacles for being a woman as well as for being African-American, and unique challenges in being an African-American woman. She’s immediately sexualized by some of the men she encounters who compare her to a wild animal. It’s clear that this particular universe rests on deep racism as well, with most of the Father authority figures we see being Caucasians. We can only see snippets of a conversation about “gender terrorism in the form of miscegenation,” so it’s clear that institutional racism isn’t just an abstract concept for these people. Oppressive systems rest on dividing people into categories as much as possible to prevent them from uniting, so I’ll be curious to see how DeConnick explains the institutional underpinnings of sexism and racism in this book.
Cheers, Bitch Planet, you’ve done it again. In the next issue we’re supposed to get some discussion of Duemila and what the games will look like. Looking forward to it.