Bitch Planet #3 Review: Bitches Be Like….

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Cover for Bitch Planet #3

Cover for Bitch Planet #3

Bitch Planet #3

Kelly Sue DeConnick (W) Robert Wilson IV (Guest Artist)
Image Comics
February 18, 2015

Third issues are hard.

DeConnick mentioned in the previous BitchFest (the first afterward that follows the comic itself) that they plan for Bitch Planet to be roughly 30 issues collected into five trades.  While comics writers are masters of the serial narrative, in the first few issues of any series, you’re not only trying to write a compelling narrative, but also introduce your characters–striking a balance is not easy.

Structurally speaking, the third issue is not a narrative arc-related issue. It does not continue the narrative established in the first and second issues surrounding Kamau Kogo and the Duemila/Megaton. It’s a worldbuilding and character backstory issue. But as someone who is just as fascinated by the universe as the story, these tend to be the issues I love the best.

Before I dive into my review, let me preface it by saying that what I love about Bitch Planet is not that it’s a comic that has feminist ideas. It’s the fact that it’s unapologetic about them. And in case you weren’t clear that Bitch Planet has a feminist agenda, they include essays after the comic written by prominent feminists. The first essay dealt with privilege and systemic injustice. The second was on defining feminism in an age of misconceptions about what feminism is–again, just in case you weren’t clear that this comic is rolling in feminist feels. And for me, right now, that’s my jam. I’m ready to get a non-compliant tattoo.

When I finished the second issue and read the promo that promised the secret origin of Penny Rolle, I was excited. As another woman who was “born big,” I was waiting with bated breath for a story about me.

I was not disappointed.

I saw myself in Penny Rolle. I saw myself in seeing her growing up fat. I saw myself in the judgmental words from other people–men and women–that declare what I look like as not aesthetically pleasing to society. And it’s an important story. While society continues to accept curvaceous fat women as a new aesthetic, it continues to leave out those of us who do not have curves in all the right places. Women who, like myself, have fat rolls and cellulite and stomachs larger than our breasts.

But more important than seeing myself in Penny is the fact that I see in Penny’s story women that I know who I have never seen before in media. I’ve never had to deal with society judging me on the “curliness” (aka “blackness”) of my hair–but I know people who have, and it’s their story that I’m reading in this issue. I’ve never had to deal with the stereotypes about my race in regards to sexuality, but I know people who have. So while it’s important that I identify with Penny, it’s all the ways I don’t that are more important. That is the beauty of Penny Rolle, and the beauty of Bitch Planet in general.

In this issue’s BitchFest, DeConnick mentions that this is the first “special third” issue, indicating that the next special third–issue #6–is going to feature another guest artist, and focus on Meiko Maki. Some might say that such a move is a gamble–to structure your comic in such a way that every third issue is something separate from your main story arc runs the risk of losing narrative momentum. I think it indicates DeConnick’s–and Image’s, who approved the decision–commitment to worldbuilding and diversity from the start. It is also a powerfully feminist move in that it subverts the traditional structure and expectation to emphasize plot and action over worldbuilding and individual stories. Such a move argues that these stories are just as important; a structural dedication to the same kind of intersectionality that DeConnick demonstrates in the inclusion of feminist essays written by women from diverse backgrounds. To view this issue, or the upcoming special third issues, as “filler” is to miss the point entirely.

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Recovering academic. Fangirl. Geek knitter.

2 Comments

  1. Issue 3 is exactly what I wanted from Bitch Planet. I was worried Issue 1 might be mostly gimmick, Issue 2 was ok, but Issue 3 nails it. I agree about loving the unapologetic feminist-vibe. It doesn’t match my love for the comic Velvet, which is the trifecta of great story, great art, great female lead, but it’s on my single issue list.

  2. People were crying on Twitter over this issue — it’s already affected so many people.