It would have been easy for Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro to take a less difficult route in “Bitch Planet” #8. Their comic about “non-compliant” women could have stretched its storylines out for years, teasing moments that never happened or focusing solely on the most obvious subjects, but — as we finally see where Kam’s sister is being held — they choose a path that’s anything but easy.
“Bitch Planet” #8 finally reveals where Morowa is being held, as we see the facility where the transgender women are imprisoned. Let’s face it: it would have been a lot simpler to pretend that transgender women didn’t exist in the future. As DeConnick notes in her narration, they are always the first to be singled out as “non-compliant,” and there’s simply no easy way to ignore that — in a universe where the Bitch Planet facility exists — they would have been sent there immediately.
DeConnick is quick to give them the same dignity that all of the other prisoners in this series are accorded; they’re abused by the staff, even as the strength of character that got them this far enables them to resist in even the smallest of ways. It’s a powerful moment, both when we first meet some of the women in that part of the prison, as well as when Eleanor Doane’s location is discovered. With her name being used in the verbal recitation of lineage, her position is clearly one of great power, and her discovery is heralded with “Next Issue: All Hell Breaks Loose.” That’s surely no coincidence.
DeConnick also avoids the easy route with Kam and Whitney now that they’re cellmates. Again, the simple path would have turned Whitney subservient now that she’s out of a position of power, or into a quick ally. But the same character traits that allowed Whitney to lord over the other women of the prison also keep her from buckling, and — if anything — her presence in Kam’s cell means that any of Kam’s future plans will be that much more difficult to pull off with the enemy right alongside her. It’s also good to see Meiko’s father quickly determine what happened to his daughter and take action appropriately. This is the sort of revelation that could have been dozens of issues away, but the fast revelation and resulting plot twist has me eager to see what is lurking around the corner.
De Landro’s art continues to give the series the quiet dignity readers have come to expect. Look at Eleanor’s piercing eyes and calm face on the final page; it’s immediately arresting, even as there’s a patience being displayed, rather than a more obvious fierce expression. (Props also go to colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick for picking a muted eye color that doesn’t let that gaze lose a single bit of power.) Similarly, the beaming smile of the computer-generated Meiko is chilling, in no small part because of how it’s simultaneously earnest and yet patently fake to anyone who had seen what the living Meiko looked like. De Landro takes that sad scene and brings it real pathos. It’s more than just good looking characters, too; De Landro is adept at tackling potentially difficult concepts, like the eighteen-panel grid that works as a series of individual images, but also adds up to larger pictures. It’s easy to follow and clicks together wonderfully.
A new issue of “Bitch Planet” is reason to celebrate, and “Bitch Planet” #8 is no exception to that. DeConnick, De Landro and Fitzpatrick challenge their readers each issue, and “Bitch Planet” #8 rewards those who step up to the plate. Wherever the series is going next, I’m eager to find out.