I’m probably napping too much these days.
It’s not for lack of having things to do. I have fallen very far off of my pace on these articles. I used to have a cache of 15-20 ready at given time, but that’s down to a little more than five.
I keep thinking “I have a few things to read; I’ll blow through them and write three or four articles on Sunday”. And you know what I do on Sunday?
Sleep. I wake up, run whatever errands I have for the day (needed kitty litter and some stuff from Wal-Mart today), come home and nap. Then I wake up, eat, watch a little TV with the wife, and… nap again.
Look, sleep is the best. And if I didn’t have eighteen other things to do at any given moment, I’d be less regretful. I’m SUPPOSED to be reading a novel and giving thoughts on it, too.
But that’s enough of my bitching!
TITLE: Bitch Planet
Writer and Artist: Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro
Protagonists:Kam Kogo, Penny Rolle, others
Get it? That was a segue! Today’s book is Bitch Planet, and I said I was bitching! Come for the comic reviews, stay for the meandering stories and blistering witticisms.
Bitch Planet is a much more high-energy version of the popular Margaret Atwood book/television series The Handmaid’s Tale. Or Handmaiden’s Tale? I don’t know. I never watched it.
But I know that the premise involves a dark possible future where women have been subjugated by a society that is a somewhat more direct and oppressive patriarchy than the one we actually have. The only women who have freedom are those that are compliant and loyal to the system. Others have been imprisoned or enslaved into a second-hand citizen type of role.
Bitch Planet is similar in the vein that there is a male-dominated society, and the “free” women are those who acquiesce to the whims of men and don’t express to much empowerment or resistance. Those that do are sent literally off-world to the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost, colloquially known as “Bitch Planet”.
The reasons for being imprisoned range from actual crimes (assault and the like) to items that can only be described as “crimes against men” (“seduction and disappointment”, “emotional manipulation”, etc). And minorities are convicted at higher rates than white women.
In this first trade, the book sets up Kam Kogo as a hard-ass, physically imposing new prisoner on Bitch Planet who gets set up for a murder inside the facility as a way to draft her onto a football-esque team where the woman can be brutalized on a live feed for everyone home on Earth to enjoy. Kam is against the idea, but her fellow inmates convince her that they can make it work to their advantage.
Except, oops, their best player is killed by the guards in the very first scrimmage. So with things looking bleak, the first trade ends.
Ho ho, this is a hard book to discuss without getting into divisive sociological territory. I usually pussy-foot around stuff like this in my reviews because I am spineless and don’t see much use in alienating readers, no matter what my particular opinions of any of those readers might be! But with this title, that will be hard.
So I’ll open with this: though it’s only five issues, this book shows pretty much no sympathetic male characters. At least, I don’t think it does. There are a lot of scenes on Earth with some older dudes who are in charge of stuff deciding the prisoners’ fates, and those scenes are boring. Most of the characters sound similar and run together, so my brain quickly fell into “skim over this and get back to the meat of the story mode”. I could see the idea that this was maybe intentional, but… I don’t think it was. I just think those scenes were poorly handled and generic. I couldn’t differentiate many of those male characters at all.
But some of the more “noteworthy” men we meet along the way are a husband who lets his first wife rot on Bitch Planet as long as he can get his submissive new wife freed from her accidental imprisonment; a warden who doesn’t care if women are mistakenly jailed as long as he can collect some bribes over freeing them; and the men in charge of the sports league who are willing to get the prisoners involved for ratings. Not to mention the vicious, abusive guards. No one here is memorably virtuous.
I will submit that the lack of ANY man who isn’t a douche at best or corrupt and evil at worst makes things feel like a cartoon. But it’s five issues in of world-building. I assume more well-rounded characters may come later. Or maybe not, I don’t know.
So therein lies the politicization of the book. If you are a subscriber to M.R.A. beliefs or are a self-scribed “incel” or are just a general miserable asshole, you will likely quickly dismiss Bitch Planet as “something something evil feminism something something hashtag not all men”. You’re going to go in wanting to hate it, and you will, and that prophecy will be successful self-fulfilled. Good on you!
And that’s fine because Bitch Planet doesn’t care. The cover of the first issue is literally a big ol’ middle-finger to the world, emblazoned with popping grindhouse featurette lettering that you can hear in your head in a gristly voice. “GIRL GANGS… CAGED AND ENRAGED!” “GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! FIGHTING FOR THEIR LIVES… AND THEIR FREEDOM!”. It’s reaching out and grabbing you by the chin and growling in your ear that this book isn’t pulling any punches. It is reveling in its own exaggerated style to make a point, while also stunning you.
A lot of new fiction can stumble out of the gate with pacing issues, either building too slowly or getting to the action too quickly. Bitch Planet is pretty impeccably paced, honestly. The first issue is a huge misdirection on who the star of the book is and what it will possibly be about, but it serves as a great trick to make it feel like anything can happen. From there, we get the universe, we get some backstory on Penny Rolle (one of the inmates, and this is the best issue of the first trade), we get the initial plot point. DeConnick hits all the notes on leaving some mystery while making things interesting. It neither drags nor feels like it’s moving too quickly to care about the players involved.
Talking Point: Try not to call each other “cucks” in the comment section!
The book is interesting. I’m not going to pretend it isn’t heavy-handed, but that can work when done in such an entertaining manner. The scenes off of Bitch Planet were boring, but the work with the protagonists made up for it. I enjoyed it.