Just as issue #3 of “Bitch Planet” looked back at Penny Rolle’s history, issue #6 reveals the history of Meiko Maki. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Taki Soma take on sexual assault, racism and family ties in another heavy-hitting issue that illuminates the real cost of resistance. It’s a moving portrait of Meiko, and it’s definitely an interesting approach to the first issue after a four-month break: looking backward to move forward. However, readers who were looking for some more forward plot momentum also won’t be disappointed; DeConnick explains some of Meiko’s insider engineering knowledge and hints at how it might be used in the present. All told, “Bitch Planet” #6 is a smart, moving issue that not only cares about its characters but its readers (the creative team included a trigger warning on the first page).
As heavy as the material is, this story stays surprisingly casual for quite a while. DeConnick and Soma spend many pages on Meiko’s childhood with her sister and their subversive, secret-activist parents. The reader sees her practicing violin, sketching out engineering plans with her father and learning calculus. The seeming normalcy and joy of her childhood makes its unraveling all the more devastating, and it serves to illustrate how few protections even the most middle-class of lives can offer to anyone who resists a repressive structure. DeConnick and Soma also use the buildup to play with reader’s expectations. Without spoiling too much, Meiko seems set up to be the collateral damage in schemes larger than herself, but she surprises everyone by taking matters into her own hands.
Taki Soma and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick create a cleaner, brighter world than in Valentine De Landro’s darker, more atmospheric work, and that starkness works beautifully here. Not only does it imbue Meiko’s neighborhood with a sort of ’50s new-development cheapness, but everyone looks more exposed. With so few shadows to hide in, even the best-laid plans look hopelessly out in the open. In addition, Meiko’s directness and decisiveness look right at home in a world where she can be so easily observed.
In addition, Soma varies the characters’ faces wonderfully. When caught off guard, they’re expressive and open; when hiding something, they become blank and masked. The contrast between the two girls and their parents at the dinner table conveyed so much. It’s quite an effective scene.
I also have to mention how much I loved Taki Soma and Clayton Cowles’ non-linear approach to lettering and layouts. Sexism doesn’t affect women’s lives in a linear, narrative fashion; it attacks on all sides, in pieces and phrases, and I love when they capture that visually. Admittedly, it’s not a particularly novel technique, but it’s often the perfect one for this series.
“Bitch Planet” #6 is another excellent installment in an awesomely angry series. Meiko’s post-mortem celebrates her defiance and hints at how her rebellious spirit might carry on. I’m as eager to get back to the women of the A.C.O. as any reader, but DeConnick and Soma won me over with this flashback issue.