I’ve heard about the new comic book series by Kelly Sue DeConnick for a month or so now, and because I’m reading thousands of other things I didn’t get to it when it first launched. My curiosity was piqued when several fans and followers of BGN tweeted to me about the comic and Kelly Sue herself (whom I follow on Twitter) was sending out tweets about her latest series. I finally got an opportunity to read the first three issues, and let me say, MAN I LOVE THIS COMIC.
Kelly Sue DeConnick, who is no stranger to writing stories about female characters that defy patriarchal systems of society, presents us with Bitch Planet. The backdrop is a science fiction intergalactic women-in-prison story that explores diversity in such a way that it depicts itself as raw and unapologetic. The motif for this story is summed up in one term: non-compliance. The failure to act in accordance with a wish or command is the literary composition that DeConnick takes on within this fictional arc. The punishment for standing up against patriarchy (aside from imprisonment) is death.
The story takes place in a dystopian society where women who refuse to conform to archaic behavioral and social norms are criminalized and punished. The totalitarian government refers to the program as A.C.O. Auxiliary Compliance Outpost where we see a pink hologram, who appears to be an evil version of Synergy from Jem & The Holograms, directing the naked prisoners in two single file lines to collect their uniforms. Their sins vary from gluttony to infidelity to pride. The women with the most confidence appear to have to submit the largest penance for their sin(s). And while it may appear that our lead protagonist may be yet another Piper Chapman, the story takes us on a ride that exceeds the reader’s expectations. This is a story featuring several diverse characters who are predominately women of color. The racial diversity is not the only thing that appealed to me in this story, I was also attracted to the body diversity.
I really loved the juxtaposition of imagery from the raw and gritty backdrop of incarceration fused with hues of pink and lavender. I happen to be a fan of pinks and purples and although at times some women reject the idea of gender assigned colors, I embrace the femininity of those colors designed to paint women on a canvas.
I won’t spoil it for you, because I want you to read it for yourself, but the protagonist Penny Rolle –who is obese– takes a look at the mirror and is forced to share who she sees reflecting back from the a team of men who refer to themselves as “fathers”. There is also a badass character named Kamau Kogo who is giving me some serious Misty Knight vibes minus the robotic arm of course. She gets into a battle in issue #1 with prison guards where they are armed and she is not. They get most of the lickings and Kamau with her gorgeous fro and non-compliant jumpsuit has a martial stance that would bring the greatest Kung fu master to shame.
Can I just say I can easily see this comic as a Quentin Tarantino Grindhouse movie? Can someone make this happen ASAP?
I always get excited to see Black female characters depicted in such a substantive and authentic way. Bitch Planet has managed to capture that in the first three issues, especially with the story of Penny Rolle and her grandmother. This chronicle of womanhood is unapologetic and frank about its approach to feminism and intersectionality. Each issue contains a letter from a feminist with their opinions on pop culture and 2 out of the 3 feminists featured are Black women. The narrative is not oblivious to the fact that even among women, we need to recognize that whiteness should never be the default when discussing the oppression of women and women’s rights. We’re all in this together and the diversity matters in every conversation.
Bitch Planet is available on ComiXology