With a book with a purpose as strong as Bitch Planet, it’s tempting to write reviews and pieces focused on its “message.” And make no mistake, “Bitch Planet #8” has all the fiery passion and non-compliance that has justly made this book a lightning rod for discussion and a brilliant example of defiant and much-needed diversity in comics, particularly when it comes to feminist thought. But my review isn’t going to be about its politics all that much. Because “Bitch Planet #8” is also an example of good old-fashioned well-crafted comic-book storytelling.
Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Valentine De Landro have crafted an issue that serves to advance the ongoing narrative of the series, while deepening and enlarging the scope of it in surprising and compelling ways. The issue continues to keep the focus on our protagonist Kam and her goals, complicating her situation with a new cell mate. The issue also advances its subplots, including Makoto and Meiko’s storyline.
But “Bitch Planet #8” also reveals a new aspect of the ongoing narrative by introducing a whole new group of characters whose presence is both a surprise and then immediately an obvious and powerful choice to continue to examine the plight of the “non-compliants” in our society and in the society of the book. It’s a stunningly perfect, simple addition to the cast, already among the freshest and most original in comics, that will only strengthen a book devoted to shining a big, welcome spotlight on people and issues who get decidedly short shrift in main stream comics today.
But if this book was just a polemic or a tirade it wouldn’t work anywhere near as well as it does. What makes this series work, and “Bitch Planet #8” is great example of this, is how well the themes and political content support a compelling narrative and how well that narrative is structured. DeConnick takes the three plots in this issue and manages to dovetail them all together into a compelling whole, using the drive of each plot to push the main story into a compelling climax with a great cliffhanger as a capper. It manages to reveal character while still dealing with plot mechanics, and you’d be surprised how often in comics you find issues that can only manage to do one or the other, but not both.
De Landro’s art supports the script and expands upon it wonderfully. He’s got perfect control of pace through his layouts, and knows when to drop out background details to accentuate drama. There are times when he gets bold with the storytelling, particularly with a great two page layout of Kam and Whitney negotiating a maze of passageways during a blackout. The people never lose drama or emotion or impact, but these aren’t heroic fantasies. They’re real people with individuality. It’s a beautiful book to read, from an art perspective.
If “Bitch Planet #8″ makes you angry or uncomfortable, I’m not sure it isn’t supposed to, and I know it doesn’t care if it does. But there’s no denying that the issue is superbly well-made, and represents a turning point in our story thus far, and it does so through the sheer skill of its two creators. And if you needed more reason to pick it up, the essays and letters in the back are always worth the cover price too. I loved this issue, and I’m giving it the rare 10/10!