Thursday, 29 October 2015

Bitch Planet Book 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine de Landro

Bitch Planet Book 1: Extraordinary Machine written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and illustrated and co-created by Valentine de Landro is the first volume of collected comics in an on-going series. As you can probably guess from the title, it's not a comic for children, although I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to mid-teens and older audiences. The blurb on goodreads is quite unhelpful, so instead I'm going to transcribe what is written on the back of my trade.

Are you NON-COMPLIANT? Do you FIT in your BOX? Are you too fat, too thin, too loud, too shy, too religious, too secular, too prudish, too sexual, too queer, too black, too brown, too whatever-it-is-they'll-judge-you-for-today?

You just may belong on... BITCH PLANET!

The quickest way to describe this comic, in my opinion, is "Orange Is The New Black in spaaaaace". It's not quite the same, of course, and the plot follows a different direction and a different kind of woman. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The premise is a dystopian future where the patriarchy sends "non-compliant" women to a prison on another planet. And being non-compliant can cover anything from murder to obesity to not wanting to be an over-medicated housewife who lives only to please her husband. The women on Bitch Planet are, of course, all interesting characters (while the men that send them there are less so). Even more interesting and yet to be explored in great depth are the women who work on Bitch Planet as guards etc.

The main plot that loosely ties these five issues together is the building of an inmate megaton team. They're to be the first female team and will play against some male teams. Or is it all a ploy to dispose of the most aggressive and athletic inmates? That said, the megaton team organising does not strongly dominate the plot. For example the first issue introduces us to Bitch Planet (with a bait-and-switch) and issue 3 focuses on the back story of one of the inmates, Penelope.

There's a lot of nudity in Bitch Planet, but most of it is not sexualised, which is a nice change. But if you're the kind of person who absolutely does not want to see a large number of naked female bodies in your comic... well that strikes me as a bad reason to skip Bitch Planet, but at least you've been warned.

Bitch Planet is an excellent comic that I will definitely continue reading as the trades come out. It's particularly good at taking unpleasant aspects of modern life and pushing them to the horrifying extreme. Some of those extremes resemble 1950s housewifery, but others don't seem that far away from modern reality, unfortunately. I highly recommend it to most readers, especially anyone interested in a feminist book with a very diverse cast of characters.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: October 2015, Image Comics
Series: Bitch Planet, ongoing series. Collects issues #1–5
Format read: Trade paperback, although I also got a digital ARC
Source: non-Amazon online bookshop / publisher via NetGalley

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