In this second issue of Bitch Planet we learn a bit more about the political situation on Earth and about Bitch Planet prisoner Kamau Kogo, who gets a very interesting offer from the powers that be. Is it good?
Bitch Planet #2 (Image Comics)
The issue opens at a party of what we find out are high-ranking officials in the new order currently ruling Earth. We learn that they include folks from all over the world and every economic rank (supposedly – we are getting all our info from the folks in charge, and you know how reliable they are as narrators).
The world is now all under one rule, and to solve the problem of violence and war, we now have Duemila, also known as Megaton. It seems to be some kind of sporting event, possibly like football, only much, much deadlier.
However, things don’t seem to be working quite as well as the ruling council would hope. Engagement is down, and as someone who works in social media knows, engagement is THE key metric. The council is not pleased with current state of events, and when Roberto Solanza, the overseer of Bitch Planet, approaches one of the council members with an idea, he’s all ears.
We switch over to the actual planet, where we meet Kamau Kogo, who’s being held in solitary as the powers try to coerce her into confessing the crime she’s been imprisoned for: murder. After she proclaims her innocence and shatters a wall in her defiance, she is sent to a Specials operative, a female officer who gives her a choice. Kamau can help the prison and herself by starting a team to compete in Megaton.
Kamau is obviously skeptical of this, but after a couple other prisoners approach her with their support (including some important inside information as bait), she Bitch Planet team to join in the fun.
Is It Good?
The more details we get on this universe and the various occupants of it, the more intrigued I am by it. I especially love the way that Deconnick and De Landro use popular ideas and images to draw us in. The outlines of the story are familiar dystopia tropes — as we discover in this issue, this world is a little bit The Handmaid’s Tale, a little bit Hunger Games, with a splash of 1984 thrown in for good measure. De Landro’s art uses plenty of pop art and sex to catch your eye, but it’s the stuff happening in the background that he’s telling you to pay attention to.
In almost every panel, there’s something extra to notice. Take that opening party – there are very few women to be seen and the vast majority are serving drinks in very tiny dresses. But check out the non-serving women:
It appears a mouth veil is now all the rage. Women are being silenced, but you need to be paying attention to notice it.
These backgrounds also add to the humor of the book. One of my favorite parts of this issue was the fight happening behind the women prisoners trying to convince Kamau to start the team as they exercise. It begins in the very first panel, with Penny Rolle falling behind as they run. The guards approach her, she starts fighting, and gradually it explodes into a giant free-for-all as the rest of the prisoners join in. All the while Kamau is running and talking, completely unaware of the chaos behind her, probably because this happens all the time.
I laughed out loud at this part of the sequence:
Violet’s joyful leap into the fray.
Probably the scariest character we’ve encountered so far is the female Specials officer. She not only spouts the company line, but she truly believes it.
She also seems to take genuine pleasure in her work, judging by the expression on her face as she pulls off a pair of bloody gloves, a tortured prisoner in the background. Women on women violence is one of feminism’s greatest challenges and we see the evidence of it right here.
I will fully admit my bias, but I love this comic’s in your face feminism, and more than that, the fact that this book is intended to be a conversation starter, even beyond the story. The inclusion of guest essays and/or bonus comics in each issue from important modern feminist voices, in addition to the usual letters section, gives this book a calling. As Deconnick says in her author’s note: “Post-essay, that’s y’all. Community building, basically. If there’s something you want to see done there that we haven’t done yet, write to firstname.lastname@example.org and propose it.” This is our book, creators and readers alike.
I like that message. I like a book that isn’t afraid to have a strong point of view and I’m incredibly happy there’s a publisher like Image where such books are possible. The fact that the writing and art are incredibly strong and compelling doesn’t hurt either.
And next week, we get the story of Penny Rolle. F*$& yeah. #noncompliant