“Bitch Planet #1 is a badass comic book. It’s full of gorgeous art and design work from Valentine de Landro doing the best work I’ve ever seen from him, and has an incredibly tight and tense script from Kelly Sue DeConnick. It’s a futuristic tale full of grit and prone to explosive and immediate violence and features purposely manipulative storytelling that twists the knife in the reader’s side in a clever bait-and-switch that also sets up how this version of Earth operates.
De Landro’s style throughout is very pop art, featuring lots of colorful negative space and geometrically patterned backgrounds that juxtapose against the violence that’s portrayed. In fact, the more violent or tense the scene or panel becomes the more stylized the illustration becomes as well. Cris Peters’ colors enhance scenes and create a sense of movement and action; one sequence featuring a character being struck by a guard is two panels, similarly illustrated, and by simply changing the color of the character from pre to post impact we feel the crack to the skull. The character designs, lacking colorful costumes, are all unique and the action is fantastic. Punches feel painful and blood feels like it is spurting off the page. The production design throughout is fantastic, and has one of the best title pages I’ve seen outside of “Velvet.”
DeConnick’s script channels her inner Tarantino, smashing and grabbing her favorite parts of these exploitation tales and making them her own. There’s a lot of swagger in the production of this book; it’s supremely confident in the tale it tells. The action on Earth leads in a different direction than the script would indicate, and when the reveal happens, it’s only exacerbated by more violence in the prison. It seems that violence will be just as big a character in this story as the people themselves; it permeates every interaction the women have on the planet, and even when they try to keep it at bay, it finds a way to creep up and surprise them when they least expect it. There is an extreme version of patriarchal thinking in this story and we learn a bit of how it affects the world and the women in it, cruel and rooted in fear. It’s a middle finger to the demeaning, red pill-type thinking that lets teenage boys, and men with the brains of teenage boys, think that women are subservient to them. There are several very satisfying mysteries opened up about the prisoners that I want to see play out. The cast is all unique and no two characters sound the same. There is a lot of chaos here, and a lot of toys are thrown out on the carpet right away but DeConnick controls the pacing with a master’s hand and reveals just enough to leave readers wanting to know more.
If Jenji Konan, Andy Warhol, George Miller and Barbarella had a baby, it would surely be “Bitch Planet.” This is a hell of a debut, showcasing two talents that seem to get better and better with every project.