Generally speaking, I don’t read comic books. I’ve flipped through an issue here and there of various series, and I’ve read a couple mangas back in the day, but that’s about it. Recently, however, I was perusing at Barnes & Noble and was about to leave when I glanced at one of the display tables near the entrance. The bold cover and word “Bitch” caught my eye. I instantly knew that if I was ever going to be into a comic book, this would be it, especially with the phrase “Girl gangs…caged and enraged!” on the cover.
I picked it up, and skimmed the back. “Are you too fat, too thin… Too whatever-it-is-they’ll-judge-you-for-today? You just may belong on…Bitch Planet.” I decided I was definitely going to buy this volume.
Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine (Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro) contains Issues #1-5 of the Bitch Planet series, which takes place in a dystopian future where women who don’t fit into the “ideal” standard that men enforce are labeled non-compliant and sent to a correctional facility on another planet. Of course, there is nothing particularly wrong with any of the women on Bitch Planet (although in their fight against the patriarchy some of them have committed crimes like assault and murder, but that’s beside the point…). Some of their infractions include things like obesity, disrespect, and bad mother. The story follows Kam, a non-compliant who was a former professional athlete, as she puts together a prison team for a televised sports tournament. It also follows the men on Earth who are putting the tournament together in order to further manipulate the general population. Of course, this volume is only the first 5 issues, so I can’t pretend that I know exactly what’s going on yet, but I can say that I’m pretty hooked.
The comic is rated M for Mature, which I’m sure means something to those who read comic books regularly. Basically, cursing and violence and nudity and some sexuality and all that fun stuff. I normally don’t like overtly violent media, nor unnecessary nudity, but given the context and strong social and political statements this comic is making, it works for me. Something I enjoy is the fake advertisements at the end of each issue which play into the strongly-patriarchal society portrayed in this series. They are incredibly sarcastic and sassy and I just adore them. For example, one such ad is for a parasite that women can ingest to lose weight and the description reads:
“Stop being so fat and gross you big fatty! OR maybe try not to let other people’s standards of beauty or femininity or your value as a human being dictate your self worth.”
My favorite part, though, aside from the actual story of course, is the inclusion of a discussion guide at the end of the volume. It’s very thorough and lengthy so I won’t get into it too much today (maybe in a future blog post? Let’s be honest probably not), but the guide touches on elements of the story itself (characters, setting, etc.) as well as deeper themes and issues brought up within the story. My favorite favorite FAVORITE bit is about intersectional feminism. As a Mexican-passing-for-white feminist with a whole lot of privilege working for me, I always strive to be as inclusive and intersectional in my feminism as possible. I love that this story a) did not center around a white woman, and b) includes a myriad of diverse women with diverse backgrounds. The discussion guide even calls out a character in the story for being a typical example of a “white feminist”. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about and want a real life example of “white feminism” look up the Miley Cyrus/Nicki Minaj beef that happened prior to the 2015 VMAs. Or just Miley Cyrus in general.)
To be honest, when I first finished this volume I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I definitely agree with the message of Bitch Planet (the series, the the prison) and the sarcastic tone of the comic is great. I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to read the rest. Maybe I’m just not used to comic books, or something…but after I let it sink in for a couple days I decided that I liked it. I’m not going to be first in line to buy future issues, but I’m sure I will eventually buy Vol. 2 if/when it appears at a nearby bookshop.
If you are already a fan of comic books, check it out! And if you’re new to comics…check it out anyway! If you hate feminists…this is probably not for you, but maybe you should read it anyway.