“Bitch Planet” #5 feels like it has a single creative voice, with everyone from writer Kelly Sue DeConnick to artist Valentine De Landro and those in between working in an amazing harmony. However, it’s more than just the story, which concludes with a gut punch. The well-designed backmatter and essays expand the book out to an impressive 40 pages, but nothing feels padded; everything is stylized and considered. This book finds its voice very quickly and utilizes its genre trappings to become a tragic yet darkly funny look at the patriarchal society of today through a sci-fi lens.
De Landro fills the issue with powerful two-page spreads that illustrate the showdown between the NCs and the guards in the first Megaton match on the ACO. The artist gives the women strength, grace and attitude as they dish out as much punishment to the guards as they take. His work is rooted in bare light sources, creating hard shadows and intense black-and-white visuals that enforce the themes of this future: clear cut choices and a lack of middle grounds or gray areas. The page layouts are incredible and, while nothing is as incredibly laid out as the shower scenes last issue, there’s still awesome use of page real estate and expressive characters throughout. Kamau Kogo sneers and snarls her way through the game as Makoto carries the burden of his past choices in his face and body language and Penny Rolle unleashes her rage. The visual work is as exciting as David Aja’s style in “Hawkeye,” utilizing panel sizes and placement to maximize each moment.
Colorist Cris Peter plays a huge role in setting moods in the issue, washing the scenes on the ACO in blues and greens that give them a cold, unforgiving feel, which only increases as the women realize the rules don’t apply to everyone. In cruel irony, the palette choices also remind readers this book is rooted in the future. Clayton Cowles delivers some of his best lettering work by leaning in the opposite direction, giving the balloons and fonts a gritty hand-drawn feel. The bubbles also assist the art in guiding a reader’s eye forward by breaking between panels and creating momentum.
DeConnick’s story takes leaps forward in its narrative strength and the confidence of its own voice. It had attitude to spare from the very beginning and always had something to say, but — in these last two issues — readers are beginning to learn just what that is. The story is some of the best work of the writer’s career. The biting satire of televised news and the gross patriarchal trappings of the interactions on Earth show off her deft ability to hold the story together and snap between moods with a master’s touch. The backmatter, beautifully designed by Laurenn McCubbin, also shows the voice of this book. DeConnick uses these pages to create a community around empowerment and individuality. Even when the themes of the essays don’t necessarily touch upon the same ones in the story itself, everything still feels like it belongs in “Bitch Planet.”
Though it has taken the creative team a while to get to issue #5, “Bitch Planet” quickly proves it is worth the wait. This is a book for mature readers, but the team uses that label to actually discuss important themes, allowing the genre work to inform the personal stories they want to tell and not vice versa. I strongly encourage readers to become Non-Compliant and pick up this issue, which realizes the potential of the series and comics in ways other books do not.