So far Bitch Planet has established an interesting dystopia, compelling leads, and an important agenda. In this issue the a-plot takes a momentary back seat whilst we get to know the history of perhaps the most interesting of the supporting players we have seen so far, Penny Rolle. This is a different pace for this book, every bit as biting and intimate as usual, but more focussed on character than plot, and it offers a unique insight on this world. Another great read.
Penelope Rolle, arguably one of the most intriguing and humorous of the supporting players we have been introduced to in this book takes centre stage for an origin story of sorts. Taking place both just before Bitch Planet #1 and much earlier in Penny’s history this issue explores a life time spent on the receiving end of oppression and hate.
Ultimately there is a lot of heart to this story, even as we see the horrible oppression and hostile environment in which Penny has been forced to live most of her life. The ultimate moral, that Penny shouldn’t have to see herself through anyone else’s eyes to be proud of who she is, or live up to anybody’s expectations of herself but her own – these are valuable truths. There are strong statements here about the objectionable treatment of women in this/our society; the wall of male ‘Fathers’ sitting in judgement over Penny because she doesn’t conform to their ‘tastes’, unhelpful and wrongheaded views of body shape and size, the outright woman hating hostility of misogynists. There is also exploration of racism and the sheer awfulness of ‘white standards of beauty’ in how Penny is expected to style herself to match more closely societal expectation.
Art this issue is provided by Robert Wilson IV and it works well with the subject matter. The oppressive walls of faces on monitors creates a real claustrophobia in the scenes where Penny is being interrogated, whilst Penny’s facial expressions offer up an insight into her painful journey. The flashback sequences are all especially good and the wider angle framing seems to become increasingly tight as time progresses and Penny suffers more and more. The colouring work (by Cris Peter I believe based on the cover credit, but I have found it hard to confirm this) is similarly effective, and I was really impressed by the work in those flashbacks. I also loved that the lettering, by Clayton Cowles, shows only Penny laughing from the mirror-ideal-self rather than in the real world – her ideal self can laugh at these clowns for all their pettiness and hate, but Penny can only smile because she is still suffering at their hands.
In the issue back matter Kelly Sue DeConnick explains that this is the first ‘special third’ issues of Bitch Planet, an opportunity to spend more time with a particular character out of the current timeline and with new art. The punishing demands of a publishing schedule can often cause issues for artists on monthly books; I don’t know if that is the case here, but for whatever reason regular artist and co-creator Valentine De Landro is stepping aside with these special third issues. This method, alternating artists and covering different time periods when the primary artist is unavailable, has worked well for some books in the past (notably Matt Fraction’s runs on The Immortal Iron Fist and Hawkeye). That said, I can’t deny being sad that Del Landro isn’t drawing every issue (no matter how good the replacement artist is) as this is as much his world as DeConnick’s, but if it must be so then I am glad that they are taking this approach rather than have fill-in artists covering the a-plot (as long as the structure doesn’t get in the way of the main plot’s momentum).
This was another good issue of this book, an essential read for anyone interested in science fiction, dystopian futures, or the unfortunate gender politics of the future and the present. It may not have had the forward momentum of the main plot, but there is a powerful story here and one that is worth taking time to invest in.
Bitch Planet #3 // Writer – Kelly Sue DeConnick / Art – Robert Wilson IV / Colourist – Cris Peter // Image
Notes and Observations:
- I am glad Valentine De Landro was still able to provide the cover to this issue; his retro-exploration-movie-poster-style covers are just brilliant.
- The condescending Father Frank is quickly revealed to be as clueless as he thinks everyone else is – it’s an on-the-nose gag about political figures, but it worked (mostly because I enjoyed the word “algriffins“).
- Back page ad-watch: get your megaton spirit fingers in time for the big game! I like that there are real world links on there to important sites too – non-profit organisation http://www.DomesticPeace.com which supports victims of domestic violence and fact checking site http://www.Politifact.com.
All art belongs to the copyright holders