So, my review of Bitch Planet #1 got some heat. And I kind of expected that; I mean, calling bullshit on a beloved creator’s magnum opus isn’t the best or quickest way to gain internet popularity. What I will not abide, however, are the few voices that called it sexist. I acknowledge the fact that my inextricable privileged white male bias will arguably color anything I write, but I take umbrage with the accusation that my review was somehow overtly gendered. To clarify, I wasn’t telling female readers what they shouldn’t read or like. I was telling everyone. I’m a comic book critic. That’s kind of our thing. I did, however, say (and still believe) that the first issue wasn’t as groundbreaking as I rightly assumed other readers would praise it for being, and that we should give it a few more issues before making that call (or, y’know, getting tattoos). I also took issue with the overwhelming hype around Bitch Planet #1, and felt this overshadowed its lack of quality; not to mention other, less celebrated books, which did a better job with the same premise. I can only hope now that those books are getting a bump because of this one.
What I never had a problem with was Bitch Planet’s feminist conceit. I just thought it wasn’t done particularly well, and that it relied too heavily on the atmosphere around it, rather than the story’s ability to convey its message. It also simply wasn’t very good comics, and certainly not indicative of DeConnick or De Landro’s talents.
Is it necessary to have books directly address subjects as important as feminism? Un-fucking-questionably. But in the words of Roger Ebert, "It's not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it,” and I still don’t think that first issue did enough in-story (and without the help of its backmatter) to garner the praise it did, either as an exceptional title or as an integral point in the feminist dialectic.
Perhaps not surprisingly, I still don’t think that of issue two. However, based on the avenue of criticism expressed by Ebert, I must admit that, purely as a comic book, I really enjoyed Bitch Planet #2.
The story here sees Kamau Kogo - the hero at the end of last issue - framed for murder and placed in solitary confinement. There, she is given a choice that will take this series in a decidedly Running Man-meets-Longest Yard direction that I think could work well. Merging that with a bloodthirsty evil empire headed by the stereotypically gut-churning “old white guy,” and Bitch Planet has developed some legs in issue two.
The writing this time, meanwhile, is par excellence for DeConnick, with the bulk of the issue (no, I’m not talking about Penny Rolle) exploring the choice Kam has to make, and all the factors and fellow inmates that are trying to inform that decision. In pitting her in verbal fisticuffs against both patriarchy-sympathizers and discontents alike, DeConnick does a great job of firming up Kam’s characterization, which was sorely lacking last time. The scene between Kam and her would-be temptress, Miss Whitney, even ties in a bit to the postscript essay, in a way that still drips with thematic leveraging and textual padding, but feels marginally more organic than issue one.
The dialogue in the above scenes, along with those featuring the patriarchal “big bad” and his nefarious machinations, flows like mercury in its vitriolic viscosity. Everyone seems to speak with smooth poison and it often reads like seduction. But it’s not all so heavy metal, as both DeConnick and De Landro pull an impressive turn at levity. The communal treadmill scene - another “running (wo)man” reference, perhaps - was particularly great. I am a sucker for an atomic elbow drop, though.
The art carried issue one, but with DeConnick stepping back up to form here, that’s not necessarily the case this time. I enjoy De Landro’s poppy take on the story, which is further accentuated by Peter’s electric colors. Together, they are able to pull off some very neat visual tricks here, with De Landro achieving a great sense of expressiveness in his direction. But I also find some of his line work a little too loose at times, particularly in the beginning, but also pervasive throughout the issue’s backgrounds, foregrounds and faces, all of which at one time or another feel redundant.
I remain cautious about the cult of personality around this book and still don’t agree with those who think it will replace air as the thing we breathe, but Bitch Planet #2 was, if nothing else, a genuinely entertaining read.
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick Artist: Valentine De Landro Colorist: Chris Peter Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 1/28/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital