"Bitch Planet #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Illustrated by Valentine De Landro
2014, 32 Pages, $3.50
Comic released on December 10th, 2014
I'm not going to get all political here, but there are definitely some issues with the current American justice system. Just listening to Serial has taught me that much. Things could be a lot worse than they currently are, though. Imagine a world where you can be sent to prison for being "non-compliant." Maybe you said the wrong thing or you looked at someone wrong. The result? You're sent to an "auxiliary compliance outpost" in space, affectionately called Bitch Planet. Oh, and the only prisoners out there are women. Not sure where the men go or if they even have to deal with compliance.
Before digging into Bitch Planet's first issue, let's address the elephant in the room. When this comic was announced, there was some mild controversy about it because it bears a striking resemblance to another recent sci-fi / women in prison comic, Prison Ship Antares, written by Alex de Campi and published by Dark Horse through Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight. There are some similarities, but the two tell very different stories. Bitch Planet is more ground in feminism, using satire to show the indignities in how women are treated, while Prison Ship Antares is very much under the Grindhouse / exploitation umbrella but with a message about female empowerment. I'm probably going to get a lot of comments calling me a moron or explaining how I just don't get either book, but that's the risk I'm going to take.
OK, back to this issue. It takes a little while for the reality of Bitch Planet to settle in. It looks like your typical futuristic landscape with big flashing electronic billboards and spaceships, but there's definitely something more going on here. There are strange laws in place that have not yet been fully explained. What's the deal with non-compliance? Why is it that only women are sent to this prison?
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This book is debuting at a time where feminism is a big topic. Women are receiving rape and death threats online just for opening their mouths. The world of Bitch Planet is obviously an extreme one, but you can imagine how it might not be that far off in the head of some ignorant troll online.
Most of the female characters in the comic are nude throughout a large chunk of it, however they are far from titillating. It comes across as wrong, almost like you feel guilty for seeing these women like this. You want them to get their clothes. This might sound weird, especially since Valentine De Landro's artwork is great. The women are not here for eye candy, posing for the camera with cleavage on display. They're the story and they're real.
Just when you think you've figured out Bitch Planet, writer Kelly Sue DeConnick turns the tables on you. This issue builds up to a top-notch ending that will have you re-examining how you view the story. It's far from your typical women-in-prison comic. There's weight to it. There's a message here but it's not preachy. You don't come out of it feeling bad for yourself, but you might think twice before making that cat call.