Apr 16, 2016

Caged and Enraged: Bitch Planet

Caged and Enraged

I decided to read Bitch Planet and the short review is I loved it, even if I can’t wrap my head around why there aren’t more issues (Since I started this column, issue 6 came out. I haven’t read it yet.). I suspect Kelly Sue DeConnick was too busy with Captain Marvel and a million other things, so really no surprise.

I will start off with the observation that this is a lovely collection to read while commuting on public transit. It has been a while since I’ve read a comic that was decidedly adult. Hell, my last column was about a Disney Duck. So, it took me a whole 10 seconds of reading to remind myself that this series is squarely in the comics can be meaningful commentary genre.

AKA the word fuck will appear.

Backstory: Bitch Planet takes place in an alternate future (~2030 or so) where men are completely dominant, women are completely subjugated and women who don’t conform to society’s role for them are deemed non-compliant. Sometimes women get branded with the handy-dandy NC tattoo and sent to an outer space penal colony (Bitch Planet). It’s either a feminist dystopia (its Wikipedia category — also, its Wikipedia entry in unhelpfully short. This is a fully formed world people, get on it.) or really just a commentary on the distant past, the recent past or the actual present - take your pick. All of this setup is done wonderfully, with few words and just the overall tone and ambiance of the first few pages.

One thing the series does exceptionally well is the details. My god, they actually make me pay attention to the art and what’s going on in the background. I am somewhat less inclined to notice what’s going on in the background or appraise a comic based on its art or the artist’s style. I go for story and content, so when a series makes me pay attention to something I usually gloss over, that’s a positive in my book.

The series also manages a nice balance of the subtle and overt that the casual observer (i.e. someone who stops after the title) might think is lacking. I prefer the overt, in your face commentary, but appreciate the attention to detail. Such as a newscaster calling someone babe or hon’ casually during the course of his exposition. There is also a page of adverts at the end of each issue (probably, that is a trouble with reading a collection).

This page does a great job of illustrating how horrible Bitch Planet’s society is and at the same time provide clear commentary on how the rest of the real world subtly treats women. Now that we’ve got the world creation out of the way, let’s get to plot.

The Colony aka Bitch Planet is quickly set up as a harsh women’s prison ala the Kiln or Shawshank. In fact, it takes those premises and flips them, based on a sexploitation view of a women’s prison. There are of course prison shower scenes. But what isn’t expected is when the prisoners use the male guards perversions against them (well, maybe it is expected, but it’s executed well and that’s all I care about). The story so far does a nice job of setting expectation and then tweaking them. The set up is basic, the patriarchal society is in a classic bread and circuses scenario. Their circus though is something called Megaton/Duemila, which I am shocked is not an actual game….yet.

I’ll let the authors explain:

I would totally watch that sport. Go Gamblers!

Where the collection left off the women had formed a kick ass team, via the usual sports montage as can only be done in a prison. There are about 5 pages of images like this one, where the details matter as much to the plot as the character development.

My biggest complaint with the collection is that it left no resolution to the story line. That’s more a critique of the publisher than the creators. They are developing the story and under normal circumstances, a volume would complete its story before going to a trade. All it did was make me want to read the rest of the series though, so not altogether bad.

Based on the current release dates from Image, I suspect this story will be wrapped up by the middle of the year. At which point, I can go back to waiting for the trade and then the library to get the trade and then to making people feel uncomfortable on my way to work. Should be a fun December again.

Until then…

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