Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Bitch Planet #1 Review (Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro)

Bitch Planet 1 Cover De Landro Deconnick Image

No it’s not a chain of Kim Kardashian boutiques, this is Kelly Sue DeConnick’s latest comic: Female Dog Planet aka Orange Is The New Black… In Spaaaaaaaaaace! 

In yet another dystopian future, women are sent to a prison planet for the slightest of transgressions that go against the patriarchal ideal female who is subservient and compliant. Husband sick of the wife and wants to trade her in for a younger model? Pay some agency to get rid of her and shack up with Wife #2! 

The first issue looks at the inmates who begin to be processed on Bitch Planet and that’s pretty much it. There doesn’t seem to be a main character or plot but it is loudly FEMINIST. DeConnick doesn’t actually seem to want to tell a good story, she just wants to yell and gnash her teeth about female politics. 

Which is fine - but the approach is all wrong. It’s presented in a grindhouse movie-esque style. The genre is supposed to be overblown and melodramatic. It’s supposed to be crude and ridiculously simplistic in approach. Except it’s asking us to think seriously about women’s roles in society and the inequality many still face across the world. Put simply, the two don’t gel and the presentation undermines the message. 

The first page is well laid out and very artistic with a voiceover actor rushing to the studio through the futuristic crowds while her producer counts her down. The title page is stylish and nicely designed, and I like the way the conversation between the sleazy guy, the husband and the wife is presented with their words overlapping despite the wife being in different place. 

Danielle Henderson’s essay that follows is also very good - much better than the preceding comic in fact because it makes no allusion about pretending to tell a story; it’s simply non-fiction. That’s about all I liked about the issue though and it doesn’t add up to much. 

The whole time I was waiting to connect to a character or become invested in a story and all I felt was that I was being manipulated with a very one-sided pseudo-tale that was all message. It’s almost like I feel that if I don’t say I like this comic I’m branding myself as a misogynist/sexist and I’m not that. 

The riot scene is bland and unexciting, the two prison controllers’ dialogue was uninteresting, the appearance of the second wife was bizarre (where did she come from again?!), and the introduction of our hero fell flat because she’s introduced at the very end and we know nothing about her. 

It comes down to DeConnick just not being a very good writer which is why I’ve ever taken to her Captain Marvel or Pretty Deadly books - yet still I keep giving her a chance to show me why she’s so beloved! And I think that comes down to personality over talent.

Valentine de Landro’s art is quite good. I like the front and back covers’ designs, the aforementioned title page, and a couple of the conversational sequences in the issue (even if the dialogue itself was lacking), but his art doesn’t do much for me. It’s personal taste but his work looks like a hundred other artists’ styles to me. Cris Peter’s colours too are no great shakes, giving the overall comic a boring generic look. 

I’m all for feminism and equality in all things and I’m sure this comic will get enormous praise lavished on it because it’s saying all of the correct things very effusively with plenty of righteous anger. Because Female Writer + Feminist Story = GOLD, right? Hmm. No. When I picked up Bitch Planet #1 I was just hoping for a good comic to read - and, based solely on that, it’s definitely not good at all.

Bitch Planet #1

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