Updated: Jun 24
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick Art: Valentine De Landro & Robert Wilson IV Publisher: Image Comics
WHAT IS IT?
Pulpy, dystopian feminist exploitation. Think Orange is the New Black meets The Handmaid’s Tale.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? (Minor Spoilers)
It’s the dystopian future, and women who are labeled “non-compliant” are sent to a prison planet of troublesome women. And we’re not talking only crimes people are sent to prison for, now, although that’s certainly why some of the women are there. But others are there because they were a problem for men in some way, and powerful men didn’t want to deal with them anymore.
Marian Collins is the latter of these, though like OITNB, it’s an ensemble cast. She’s been wrongly sent to the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost (the prison, AKA Bitch Planet) and has to do her time like all the other women there. Things…don’t go super well for her there, and what happens to her sparks the rest of the events throughout this trade paperback.
The comic flashes back and forth from present to each character’s backstory on who they are and why they’re in the prison. There’s a lot of talk about forcing the women to be part of this sports league for TV ratings, so I thought it might turn into a sports drama, but…SPOILER ALERT! It doesn’t.
Also, while most of the story does take place on a planet separate from Earth, it’s not a space-heavy science fiction book.
More than a gimmick, the pulp, pop art builds on the genre and story
Mostly female cast with fantastic racial, ethnic & LGBTQIA+ representation
Bonus shout-out to trans women (and especially trans women of color) representation, a group who historically gets left out of a lot of feminist and LGBTQIA+ media and community events
Characters have good depth, motivation and unique personalities
Though it was started before the latest administration, its progressive message is even more powerful in the current era of Trump, #MeToo, police violence and other social is-sues
Dialogue and story is well-balanced – pulpy & over-the-top while still lending power to the message and feeling believable
Fake, old-school ads for products that would be available in this world help build the tone and universe
Discussion points at the end are perfect for reading groups, or just getting the most out of the story
While present, the nudity isn’t for sexual or male gaze purposes
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
This comic earns its “Mature” rating – there’s a lot of nudity, violence and cursing
Slow publishing – issues come out slowly and irregularly
Hard to know where the story is heading until Vol. 2
If Orange is the New Black or Handmaid’s Tale made you feel uncomfortable, this will, too
WHY SHOULD YOU READ IT?
It’s timely, progressive and one of the most important comics out there right now. And it’s a friggin’ great comic.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Bitch Planet, Vol. 2 by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine De Landro
Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios
Lumberjanes, Vol. 1 by Stevenson, Watters, Ellis & Allen
If you like the art:
X-Factor: Second Coming by Peter David & Valentine De Landro
The Black Beetle: Kara Böcek by Francisco Francavilla
Captain America Comics #1 by Jack Kirby & Joe Simon
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Kelly Sue DeConnick – Writer
Is a vocal feminist who started the #VisibleWomen hashtag to bring more attention to the many talented women in the comics industry
Knew several other big names in comics through a Warren Ellis web forum before all of them made it big
Dream Team: She is married to another talented comic book writer, Matt Fraction
Valentine De Landro – Art
Has done a single issue work and a few runs for Marvel, DC, IDW, Valiant and Dark Horse, as well as his work on Bitch Planet for Image
Doesn’t have a whole lot of information easily accessible on the ol’ Internet
Robert Wilson IV – Art
Did the art for Penny Rolle's "origin story" in this trade
Multitalented: Also makes tour and concert posters for indie bands like Stars and The Mountain Goats
Cris Peter – Colors
Outlander: Lives and works in Brazil
Dream Team: Was nominated for an Eisner award for her work with Matt Fraction on Casanova
Majored in advertising, like a certain charming and attractive yeti you may know
Clayton Cowles – Letters
Name Recognition: Cowles (pronounced ‘Coals’) is also extremely talented and sought-out in the comics industry
Dream Team: Currently works with some of the biggest names in comics
Prolific: This guy has lettered most of the comics I’ve read in the past 3 years
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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