Bitch Planet Vol. 1:
Author: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Valentine De Landro
Release Date: October 7, 2015
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre(s): Science Fiction
It’s taken a lot longer than it probably should have but I finally got a chance to sit down and read Bitch Planet. I’m sure that a lot of our readers are already familiar with the series. After all, it’s gotten quite a lot of press since it’s first issue released back in December 2014. The very first trade paperback for the series was released at the end of last year and that provided the perfect opportunity for me to see just what everyone has been talking about.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Bitch Planet, the series is written by Kelly Sue DeConnick in conjunction with artist Valentine De Landro. I want to be upfront when I tell you all that if you’ve got a problem with feminism, violence, and realistic nudity then this isn’t going to be the book for you.
That said, if you don’t mind all that then the book has a really great premise.
The series takes place in a dystopian future where misogyny is literally the law of the land. There isn’t just petty prejudice against women in this world. Women are legally seen as lesser beings and are expected to behave a certain way. If they don’t, they are sent to the titular Bitch Planet – a prison planet for ‘non-compliant’ women.
Women are marked as non-compliant for any number of reasons. For some it’s just a matter of getting too old to be the trophy wife their husband believes he deserves. Just being disrespectful or chronically ‘unladylike’ is enough to get you locked up off planet for good. Of course, some women who get sent there are violent criminals, too. It doesn’t matter why you’re sent there – you’re treated all the same.
The book focuses on a handful of women all of whom find themselves being sent away to Bitch Planet for one reason or another. As the backstories unfold you get a real sense of just how messed up this society has become and just how poorly women are treated. These same women once incarcerated find themselves once again effectively playthings of the men who rule the world as they are drawn into a dangerous, at times deadly, sporting event.
It’s all a really great set up and the book just does so many things right.
It’s violent without seeming gratuitous. It embraces flawed, unapologetic characters. It approaches nudity with honesty. There is no shame in how any of the women are portrayed and it’s great. Bitch Planet is in your face and it addresses so many things head on. The book doesn’t shy away from the nitty gritty of race, gender, and the politics of it’s world. In that way, it’s really refreshing. The ‘exploitation’ sort of style they use to tell the story is just perfect.
But if I’m being honest, I unfortunately I didn’t find the plot as engaging as I was hoping. I love the idea of the over-the-top misogynistic world but the women we’re supposed to be rooting for just aren’t all that interesting to me. I had a hard time caring about them and instead found my interest drawn more to their general circumstances and the world they lived in.
Bitch Planet is one of those series that I feel sometimes suffers from a great premise. Some books have such a great set up that when it comes down to fitting the actual characters and their story arcs into things they falter. Now, I’ve only read six issues so I have to say it could get better. I certainly hope so because I have no intention of not continuing with the series. I really want to see what’s coming next.
Also, the book looks amazing. Even if I wasn’t that invested in seeing how this world plays out and the story progresses I’d probably coming back for the look and feel of it. I hadn’t (at least knowingly) run across De Landro’s work before but I love it. I love the character designs and the style she’s using.
My favorite thing, though, are the advertisements throughout. There are some old school 1960s-style comic adverts throughout but they aren’t for X-Ray vision glasses and things like that. Instead they are for hilariously awful in-world products and notes from the creators. It’s fun stuff and it really adds to the old school feel of the book.
When it comes down to it, as much as I was disappointed by how flat the overall plot has fallen so far, I definitely would have to say pick up this book. If nothing else, pick it up because everyone’s talking about it. Way too many people – myself included – have formed unfair opinions of the series before reading it. Obviously you’ll need to be okay with how in-your-face it’s going to be. And you’ll need to be okay with nudity and violence. But as long as that doesn’t turn you off it’s really worth a read.