If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen me singing praise for Bitch Planet #1 this week, leading up to its official release today. For those lucky enough to have avoided my endless ramblings on social media, you may still have not heard what Bitch Planet is actually about. All that you really need to know is that you should buy it. Seriously, it’s great. Rather than write the world’s most compact comic book review though, I’ll elaborate as to why it’s as good as it is.
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and drawn by Valentine De Landro, Bitch Planet is a brilliantly clever riff on 70s exploitation films. As I generally avoid information on upcoming comics I know I’m going to cover, I didn’t know much beyond that premise. It sounded fun, but it wasn’t quite something I was intently counting down the days for. I was surprised then to finally read it and find that although that 70s movie vibe is there, it’s simply a backdrop for a wickedly smart and engaging comic.
The premise behind Bitch Planet is that women deemed “non-compliant” are shipped off planet to the so-called Bitch Planet, which is essentially a prison. I’m not going to tell you much more as that would spoil it. If that was all there is to it then it would still be a good comic book, but there’s so much more beneath the surface.
The whole issue is deeply satirical, using an exaggerated version of our society to highlight how brutally sexist the world we live in is. This is used to even enhance the story, as our expectations are predicted and toyed with, twisting what we presume to be the truth to surprise us. The satirical elements trickle down from the premise to run through every aspect of the book. A favourite of mine is the billboards and adverts visible in the background of the very first page: ‘Buy this it will fix you’ reads one in gigantic glowing letters. Amusingly summing up a lot of the advertisements aimed at women today.
Another thing I love is that Bitch Planet is brutal and unapologetic in its take. It doesn’t hold your hand or gently prod you into thinking about the role of gender in our lives. Instead it slaps you across the face with the truth, its exaggerated manner simply highlights the sheer absurdity of the real situation. This goes for both the writing and the art. For example, nudity is used in the issue in a realistic and unexaggerated manner but the avatar of Bitch Planet, controlled by men sat in a control room, is incredibly sexualised with a laughably tiny waist, extended slender legs and long hair wider than her head. Not to mention she’s also bright pink. It creates a brilliant juxtaposition between the normal and real women “she’s” lecturing and her virtual and hyper stereotypical femininity, which itself is constructed by men.
I am ridiculously happy that this comic exists and I really hope it makes people think. It’s also perfectly timed right now, with stories of veiled sexism popping up all over the media, we’re seeing acts of sexism actively denied and explained away. As a nice bonus there’s an essay in the back by Danielle Henderson, who touches upon this very theme, how many are blind to the need for feminism or misunderstand it entirely.
If you’re interested in gender as a topic academically or even just casually then you absolutely must buy Bitch Planet. If thinking deeply about gender is something you never do, then you absolutely must buy Bitch Planet.
Bitch Planet is a comic everybody should read. Buy it.