Bitch Planet #4 Review


Kelly Sue DeConnick’s provocative masterpiece Bitch Planet continues this week with another stellar issue. For those of you who haven’t gotten on board yet, the first issue established a satellite women’s correctional facility dedicated to the Noncompliant, a sector of women who don’t conform to what the patriarchy defines as appropriate feminine identity. In the second, DeConnick established more of the male-dominated world and introduced a global sport sensation, Duemila (or “Megaton”). In order to buy time for the main artist to continue the prison’s story, every third issue is a standalone exploration of a character, and nine weeks ago, we learned more about Penny Rolle. This issue’s plot follows inmate Kamau Kogo as she helps her prison to train a Megaton team as a way to search for her missing sister. The rules of Megaton as hilariously set up by an instructional video (“Duemila For Dummies Women”) starring two idiot models who mostly know that “Men love Megaton!” and that responsible ladies will “fool him into thinking you share his passion!”

The bulk of the issue, though, is titled “Obligatory Shower Scene,” and it’s amazing. Most of this book has had extensive female nudity, a nod to the exploitative grind house films of the 1970’s, but the bodies have never appeared sexually. Women are naked to get prison uniforms, for instance, and the exposure demonstrates the oppression of their world. Artist Valentine De Landro has thoughtfully shown a wide variation in female body type, and no one looks like the porn stars who dominate major super hero comics. This issue has the first lesbian sex scene, and it’s one of the most sensitive and careful scenes of the book so far. Care is taken to show the way the women use this interaction to comfort one another, to manipulate the guards who spy on them, and to safely exchange secrets. Sexual body parts are covered with deliberate word balloons or masked by an elegant panel structure in a way that plays as mature, not coy. Folks who want to pull this into masturbatory fantasy won’t have to try too hard, but it’s clear that this book will not exploit its characters to move product.

Following the story, essayist Mikki Kendall writes an amazing piece about the disproportionate punishments of black girls for the same offenses as their white peers, often for offenses committed alongside white girls. Feminism remains a hugely important movement, and this comic book has been enlightening about the rich texture of the needs all women. But first, DeConnick prints a letter to the readers explaining that the reason this book is so late is because of how many tries it took to keep the sex scene from being “male-gazey.” Given the exquisite success, I hope that we as readers can focus on the quality of the product and not the speed of the work. The writer then responds to men who Tweet about women who have gotten Bitch Planet‘s “NC” tattooed on themselves. She rightly points out that it’s patronizing to judge what another person puts on his or her own body, but she incorporates it further into the feminist themes of her work by comparing it to the terrible “fake geek girl” judgments men in the fandom use to alienate female fans. To summarize, she quotes from her newsletter that this tattoo does not mean the woman is a fan of Bitch Planet. It means, “I am finding the courage to be my authentic self, whomever he or she may be. I do not fit the box assigned me… I refuse to see myself through your eyes… I will hold my head high and you will support me or get the f**k out.”

DeConnick’s quote should be a mantra for all of us, across genders, across races, across ages. She has explicitly stated that the back matter essays and letters will not be collected when this book comes out in trade paperback, and I urge anyone reading this review to pick up the single issues at a local comic shop or on This message needs to be out there, it needs to be loud, and we need to be saying this fearlessly.

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