Bitch Planet #8 Review


Bitch Planet returns with its first transgender characters, but publishing delays are killing this otherwise wonderful book.

Bitch Planet #8
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by Valentine De Landro
Published by Image Comics

Bitch Planet has been a space for some of the most powerful feminist discussion in comics, and this week, it returns from a four-month hiatus to introduce trans women to the narrative.

So far, the book has followed the noncompliant females of Auxiliary Compliance Outpost One, with emphasis on Kamau Kogo’s search for her sister and the death of spirited Meiko Makoto. In this issue, Makoto’s father demands to see her before he’ll do any more work designing the facility’s sports arena, and the station’s attempt at subterfuge shows a lack of understanding Meiko’s character, breaking a good man’s heart. Readers are also introduced to a group of trans women imprisoned for “gender falsification, deceit,” and here we finally meet Kamau’s sister.

Last issue, the book slowed down the action to allow the mourning of poor Meiko, and that felt deserved and necessary. Some of the slower moments this week were excellent – Mr. Makoto realizing the facility was lying to him about his daughter was heartbreaking and accomplished with DeConnick’s use of quiet panels and De Landro’s exquisite ability to make these characters into actors. And the trans women were depicted with the same respect this creative team has shown to their cisgendered sisters.

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In a summer that has seen widespread prejudice and panic about trans people in public bathrooms, we need to see more trans characters in our cultural media. The simple argument in this issue of “You’re here to find your brother” “I don’t have a brother” is powerful and notable for how few published comic books are willing to have that argument. The backmatter essay by Mey Valdivia Rude is a phenomenal argument about the need for trans characters and the difficulties in getting this. This is a book with amazing moments.

But this issue didn’t pick up the pace any, and for a title that has taken eighty weeks to publish eight issues, that’s getting harder to ignore. It’s been 17 weeks since the last issue. Bitch Planet #6 took 17 weeks, too. Bitch Planet #5 took 19 weeks to come out. I care about the discussion, and I salivate to read the amazing back-and-forth in the letters pages each issue, but I cannot remember the story anymore. Kamau Kogo is… doing something. And Meiko is the dead one. And Penny Rolle, I know I like Penny. But I can no longer remember what’s happening to these characters. I can’t recall the Megaton subplot without rereading my old reviews, and that’s a real problem.

This is another issue where the plot doesn’t move forward much – we see there are trans women, we see that Meiko’s dad has figured something out, we watch Kamau and a blonde woman arguing (and this is not the first time we’ve seen her but I can not remember who she is, and when the summary page calls her “Special Operative Whitney” and says she has something to do with Meiko’s death, I still struggle to put any of that in a set with a real memory and fail). The only action piece is a page where Meiko’s dad takes a little revenge, and I hope I can hold onto that for the four months it may take to read the next issue.

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When this happens with other series, I just wait for the trade and maybe reread volume one before volume two gets here in a year. But this book is too good to do that. This book has an important conversation going on in the last six pages every time, and people who just read the trade are going to lose that.

I don’t know how to resolve this. I don’t know what we as a comics culture can do about it. Here is a book, a vital book, a book that says something no one else is saying and it’s saying something the rest of us should be screaming, here is a book about why in my home state of North Carolina we can’t pay our public school teachers but we can hire lawyers to defend our gendered restroom signs, here is a book about the culture that allowed a man to feel authorized to murder 49 people who just wanted to dance two weeks ago, here is a book that needs to be there. But here is a book that isn’t there.

I think the answer is to make more books like this. I think we stop asking Kelly Sue DeConnick to think for us and instead we let her teach us and then we go have these talks on our own. I think we demand that the books we read pass the Bechdel test, I think we write cogent letters to the editor when more education is needed on issues of gender and sexuality, I think we post on Facebook and Twitter until our friends catch themselves using our arguments. I think we try to find more ways to make these products ourselves and to support the Hell out of the people who are making these products already.

Because Bitch Planet is not a bad book. It’s an imperfect book, hurt by the realities of a publication schedule, and that’s a conversation in itself as much as the other provocative content in between the covers.

must read: Catch up with previous Bitch Planet reviews

The Bottom Line: Bitch Planet #8 is an important part of the feminist narrative but is losing the momentum it needs as a comic book. Still a great purchase. Always a great purchase.