Bitch Planet, vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine

Bitch Planet, Vol 1: Extraordinary MachineBitch Planet, Vol 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

The title kind of put me off this one for a bit. I don’t know about you, but I don’t relish carrying around a book with “bitch” in huge letters on the cover. But I heard so many great things about this book, and I love the cover, and I generally trust DeConnick. So I jumped at the chance to get it from Netgalley, and I’m very glad I did.

Bitch Planet is a deeply feminist take on “women in prison” exploitation media, and it’s damned good. It has all the action it would need to be entertaining, while seamlessly folding in the social commentary that makes it more than just a women in prison comic. See, you get sentenced to “bitch planet” by being a non-compliant woman. By being fat or a lesbian or getting in the way of your husband marrying his younger mistress or anything that would make you less than a perfect little woman. It’s dystopian, to be sure, but some of the things said are uncomfortably close to things said every day. Which is, of course, what makes it effective.

To me, the single best issue is the one that focuses on Penny, an unapologetically and happily big woman. It’s perceptive and carefully written and powerful. The moment when it’s confirmed that Penny really does love herself as is was one of the most joyful things I’ve read in comics in a long time.

There’s more than a bit of nudity in this book, which actually didn’t bother me. The nudity is resolutely non-sexual, and I appreciate the diversity in body types represented. I think that it was included because it’s such an integral part of women in prison exploitation, and DeConnick and De Landro wanted to desexualize the situation. And it works, partly because the women don’t all look alike, and they definitely don’t all look conventionally attractive.

I was hoping that I would like this, but I was surprised with just how much that I love it. I am kind of disappointed that the essays that were at the back of the original issues weren’t included in the trade. I would have loved to read those, too.

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