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Bitch Planet: Extraordinary Machine (Image Comics, 2014; #1-5)

There’s a new Bitch Planet trade coming out this week, and if you’re not reading the book—or at least familiar with it—you should be.

Series co-creators Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine de Landro transform the real-world expectations foisted upon women—about how they behave, dress, look, speak, think of themselves, anything—into crimes. If a man feels that a woman doesn’t meet his expectations, he can file a complaint, and she’ll be determined non-compliant. And then she’s shipped off to Bitch Planet.

Properly termed, “The Auxiliary Compliance Outpost,” Bitch Planet serves as lock-up and reprogramming facility. The way out is to succumb to societal expectations. Or maybe, you sign up for a popular televised sport and perform for your male audience’s enjoyment. Voyeurism is at the heart of everything the book is about. At the end of the day, it’s not that a select few have the power to put an end to the incarceration of women for being who they want. It is because voyeurs are, at best, complacent in oppression. By sitting back and watching it, they accept the status quo. And as long as that is the case, no magic wand will make misogyny and sexism go away.

How integral is the idea of an audience's complicity to what DeConnick has to say? The book's aesthetic roots are in people paying to see women jailed and exposed as entertainment—Bitch Planet draws inspiration from prison exploitation films.

With their retro-inspired visuals and sparing use of sci-fi elements*, de Landro, Wilson, and Peter give Bitch Planet a style straight out of the 1970s heyday of these movies. And to the team’s credit, the book never feels exploitive. While it takes notes from films designed to titillate, it never veers into that territory itself.

If you haven’t checked out the first volume of Bitch Planet, do yourself a favor and give it a try. And if you have, then be sure to grab Volume Two when you can. It has a lot to say—way more than I can do service to here. Intersectionality, physical abuse and violence against women, the ways in which women are forced to self-police and to police one another, how oppressive regimes use sympathetic faces to obfuscate their intentions—all this comes into play. It is timely and well crafted, and it invites you to engage with it on an intellectual level.

*It’s called Bitch Planet for a reason: the prison is in space. Men kick women who offend their delicate sensitivities off of Earth rather than letting them be people.

Collected in

  • Bitch Planet, Book 1: Extraordinary Machine (#1-5)


Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick | Artist: Valentine de Landro (1, 2, 4, 5), Robert Wilson IV (3) | Colorist: Valentine de Landro (1, 2, 4, 5), Cris Peter (3), Matt Hollingsworth (3 - Cover) | Letterer: Clayton Cowles | Logo/Designer: Rian Hughes | Back Matter: Lauren McCubbin | Production: Tricia Ramos | Editor: Lauren Sankovitch | Researcher: Dani V.

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