'Bitch Planet' mixes '70s exploitation film homage with 2014 appeal

While creators in the past such as Mark Millar have done a fine job of developing their name as a brand to build a fanbase around, writer Kelly Sue DeConnick has taken brand building to a whole new level. Perusing the back end material in the first issue, I was astounded and impressed to find that anticipation for the new Image Comics series, Bitch Planet, had grown so much in advance that a few people actually got a tattoo sporting the "non-compliance" icon (that features prominently in the story).

In advance press since the announcement of this series, DeConnick made it clear she wished to push herself outside of her comfort zone in terms of writing this series. At the same time, she and artist Valentine De Landro also desire to feature female lead characters that  are different shapes and sizes--as opposed to all of them being of ideal height and weight. This first issue holds nothing back--including full nudity scenes that make it clear just how realistic the creators want to go in conveying realistic body types. It is not a gimmick to garner attention, and in fact the bluntness reminded me in a sense of HBO's 1997 prison series, OZ.

That's not to say this new series featuring a prison on another planet is derivative of that series. It is not. Particularly given that the cast is made of inmates who are not criminals in the traditional sense. The manner in which Bitch Planet hearkened back to OZ for me was that I became immediately attached to characters (as I did many years ago with Lee Tergesen's portrayal of Tobias Beecher) knowing full well these are folks that are going to be put through the wringer.

There were many surprises for me in this first issue--while folks were justifiably anticipating De Landro's art, I found myself equally delighted by the coloring work by Cris Peter. Also as a longtime fan of Lauren Sankovitch's editorial skills during her run at Marvel, I had no idea she was the editor on this project. While original editor Danielle Henderson had to step down due to scheduling conflicts that prevented her from staying on, she provides a thought provoking essay in the back end of the first issue. Too often the hype of a new series never matches one's expectations. Fortunately on this round, Bitch Planet exceeded my expectations. I do hope the creative team is able to continue this balance of shifting the narrative between the prison facilities and machinations playing out at the same time back on Earth. Everything combined for a hellaciously engaging read.

[Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

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