I reviewed Bitch Planet Book 1 for CBR8, right before the 2016 election, and at the time, I wondered how a dystopia such as DeConnick imagines could come about — a patriarchy where submissive women are placed on a pedestal and “non-compliance” makes one a criminal. A year later it is easier to see how that might happen. On a daily basis we bear witness to the many ways women and minorities can so easily be stripped of their rights and criminalized. In Book 2, writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Valentine DeLandro continue the story of the Fathers’ plan to build a Megaton stadium (a violent contact sport played by men, but soon to feature a team of female inmates) on the penal colony outpost known as Bitch Planet. While main character Kam tries to discover the whereabouts of her sister, we see cracks developing in the patriarchy, and we get a hint of what preceded it.
Book 2 opens with a flashback. Mr. Maki is an engineer who seems to have a dislike for the patriarchy. When a blackmailer threatens him and his family, his daughter Meiko takes drastic measures and winds up on Bitch Planet. Many years later, Maki has the chance to visit the planet as part of the team building the Megaton stadium. His daughter is dead, but Maki’s hatred for the regime is not. His subversive activity on Bitch Planet will allow Kam to find her sister and will uncover the existence of “President Bitch” Eleanor Doane, a former political leader long thought dead. Meanwhile, back on earth, the Fathers’ televised celebration of their grand plans for the Megaton stadium are interrupted by rebels.
In addition to a solid plot that will resonate with many readers and leave them wanting more, DeConnick introduces some great new characters. In an interview at the end of Book 2, she talks about working with members of the transgender community in order to help her develop them. As usual, DeConnick does an exemplary job of representing cross-sectional feminism. She also, in such a timely way, gives the reader female characters who side with the patriarchy against their own self-interests. One of the prison guards, even after being betrayed and abused by the system she served, identifies more with male authority than with her fellow female inmates. I think it should go without saying that she is white. Eleanor Doane fascinates me and I look forward to learning her story in the next book. She is a black woman who had been president but the reason for her downfall and secret imprisonment on Bitch Planet are as yet unexplained.
The art by Valentine DeLandro continues to impress, and the interview at the end of Book 2, wherein the artist explains certain creative decisions, is an eye opener. DeConnick and DeLandro are thoughtful and creative artists and make a fantastic duo. And be sure to take a close look at those ads from the ladies’ magazines that you’ll find throughout the book. They contain sharp, accurate critiques of the misogynistic cultural norms that we still endure.
The Bitch Planet series continues to impress with its cultural critique and political relevance, its outstanding writing and excellent art. With the holidays approaching, the two books would make a great gift for the feminists on your list. Stay noncompliant, y’all!