Zeb Larson reviews Bitch Planet #5…
The Bitches enter the arena for their very first deathsport match. From 2014 Best Writer Eisner nominee KELLY SUE DeCONNICK (PRETTY DEADLY, Captain Marvel) and VALENTINE De LANDRO (X-Factor) with colorist CRIS PETER (CASANOVA) and letterer CLAYTON COWLES (THE WICKED + THE DIVINE).
Bitch Planet has come to the end of its first story arc, and it’s frustrating to know that this is the last issue we’ll see for a little while: the book is going on a planned hiatus. But it’s frustrating only because the book is so good, and after an issue that manages to be hilarious at times, exhilarating at other moments, and heartbreaking at the very end, I just want to be able to skip to the start of the new arc. In this issue, Kamau and her team has a practice match with the prison’s guards, while off-world the organizers of the games plan to build their stadium. I will be discussing major spoilers in this issue, so consider yourself forewarned here! Stop reading if you haven’t read the issue yet.
Kamau has assembled a full team of people and is being set up for a practice match against the prison’s guards. While she gathers the team, the news media on Earth mocks the women’s team while Meiko’s father Makoto goes to meet with the game organizers. As a prominent architect, he has been asked to organize the building of the stadium in a few short weeks. He clearly has mixed feelings about everything, but hopes that by doing so he will have a chance to see his daughter. As he plans, the game goes forward, and it’s obvious that the proceedings have been stacked against the women of the prison. The woman administrator changes the rules of the game abruptly as it suits her, and attempts by Kamau to complain have her removed from the field. Meiko manages to score a point, but a guard gets to her and snaps her neck on the field.
That ending…ouch. Up until now, Kamau has managed to trounce just about everybody who’s gone up against her, dispatching hostile guards or perverts with ease. Now the system is fighting back, though, and Meiko’s death is a clear sign that they are totally willing to go to extremes to keep Kamau in her place. Her team has been foiled, and a key player in Kamau’s strategy is now dead. Poor Meiko got cut down right in a moment of triumph that the patriarchy was never going to let her enjoy.
However, Meiko’s death has set up a new fault line for the oligarchy to contend with and for Kamau to exploit. Makoto comes across as a basically decent man in this issue, and while we’ll be exploring Meiko’s backstory in the next issue, it seems safe to conclude that he loved her and didn’t want her in prison. Should he find out how she was murdered, he might go from wavering to rebellious (noncompliant?), and he’s in a position where noncompliance could be very dangerous to the established order.
Bitch Planet has lost none of its extraordinarily acidic humor, all of which is on display here. There’s a lot of love and attention that goes into making this comic, as a number of the best jokes are set in the background and require a slightly more careful eye to catch. How did I not catch the physical similarity between Kamau’s rival woman coach and a younger Phyllis Schlafly? I hope to God it was intentional. On a news blurb, the text reads “Bank Murders spree: Shooter was lonely. Is his girlfriend to blame?” This simultaneously hits the unrealistic explanations foisted upon women to make men happy, as well as the tendency of the media to excuse away the actions of white killers.
Any other book which only published every two or three months would be in for some criticism. But this book is just too good: the end product is so polished and well-written that you can’t be too mad. If there’s anything to criticize, it’s that I still don’t fully understand how this game is played: it seems like people just beat the piss out of each other, and a ball moves to the other end of the court. Then again, that’s basically my understanding of football. Cheers, Bitch Planet. Can’t wait to see what “President Bitch” has in store for us.