Bitch Planet #6 opens with a trigger warning, a considerate move by the creative team and something I wish more comics would do when it’s appropriate. As expected, this isn’t an issue that holds back, but of course that’s one of the reasons Bitch Planet is consistently such a powerful comic in the first place.
SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR BITCH PLANET #1-5 (Volume 1)
Issue #6 is another flashback issue, exploring the backstory of one of the regular cast members. Here Taki Soma joins as a guest artist to illustrate series writer Kelly Sue DeConnick’s script, which tells the story of Meiko Maki’s younger years. Regular readers might find the choice of Meiko and unusual one because, to be blunt, she’s dead.
Meiko’s history may seem wasted at first but after reading the issue it only strengthens the message of the book. Meiko’s death was sudden, unexpected and unfair, as death often is in life. Learning more about her only adds further impact to her demise, a cruel and preventable act.
However, it’s not all about making us miss the character, through Meiko’s backstory we’re given an extended look at her parents, two characters who we met in the first volume. What we learn here catapults them into being far more interesting members of the cast and sheds light on their earlier depiction. Although we won’t be seeing more of Meiko, what we see here will surely inform what her parents do going forward.
Soma’s art is a great fit for the book, coupled with Kelly Fitzpatrick’s colours they create a retro comic book vibe that suits the flashback nature of the story. This almost wholesome and nostalgic presentation works well to show the mundane and happy beginnings of Meiko’s story, before exemplifying the darker and creepier elements of the story which later intervene. Furthermore two separate pages, which bookend the issue, drawn atop sprawling musical notes are hauntingly uncomfortable to read but brilliantly presented.
Back when the first issue dropped, I stressed that Bitch Planet is an important series and one that I believe everybody should read. 6 issues in nothing has changed my opinion on that front. Once again while reading the issue I was grateful for how wickedly clever its satire is, Bitch Planet #6 again spins its commentary into a new direction, rather than just relying on the same beats.
Specifically, issue #6 deals with the subject of race, including one of the ways it intersects with sexism. The series’ first flashback issue also touched on race, albeit in a subtler manner and from a very different direction. This time it’s not about double-standards and erasure, here the comic unflinchingly focuses on racial fetishisation and appropriation. It’s a topic that’s barely touched upon in mainstream comics, but especially deserves to be highlighted in a medium that’s rife with problems around representations and treatment of race.
This theme is primarily explored through the use of a new character who works as a disturbing mirror for how such behaviour is often normalised in today’s society. Again, Bitch Planet succeeds in its satire because it slices so uncomfortably close to the truth, any exaggerations are only employed to highlight the distressingly common problems we have in our world right now. The fact it’s doing this is important, it elevates Bitch Planet above being just another well crafted comic book.
As with every issue, the story leads into closing comments by DeConnick, who provides interesting insight into the creation of the issue and the themes therein. Afterwards we have another brilliant essay around a feminist topic, this time by Debbie Chachra and tied to the theme of this month’s issue. Although it would be easy to class this essay as bonus material, the inclusion of these pieces is part of the appeal of the issue and just add more value.
As well as the usual letters there’s also an extra interview with artist Megumi Igarashi, conducted by Maki Yamane. I especially enjoyed the interview as she highlights cultural differences that she’s discovered, and then challenged, in her work. As with Chachra’s essay, the piece highlights a contemporary issue but one still related to the theme of this month’s story and the series at large.
As the first issue of what will be Bitch Planet volume #2, issue #6 continues the fantastic work begun in the first volume, beginning with another thoughtful and incredibly engaging entry in the series. Simply put, Bitch Planet is one of the smartest ongoing comic books we have today and something you should absolutely be reading.