Is there any greater compliment for art of any sort than to say that when I finished reading Bitch Planet #4, I felt energized. Indeed I was all fired up despite being on day 4 of some sort of intestinal bug and in week 34 of pregnancy. From a comic book.
So kudos to Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine deLandro for an issue that keeps upping the ante and pace of the first two (BP #3 was a kind of origin story issue out of the regular plot’s timeline). Kudos to DeConnick for a letter to the readership addressing the backlash of a few vocal male fans on Twitter to readers permanently tattooing themselves with the NC logo. Kudos to Mikki Kendall for a spot-on, insightful essay on the many hierarchies of oppression in culture and how feminism needs to look straight into its dark recesses to better support its overlooked and undersupported members. Kudos to a wonderful collection of reader feedback that not only shows the book due love but also builds a community of voices.
Cover to cover, this issue just spins!
As advertised in the last issue, #4 offers the genre exploitative shower scene. In fact, there are two. And according to the letter to readers from DeConnick, getting them right was what pushed back publication on this issue. Artist deLandro spoke to the difficulty of balancing the female form, the sexuality, and mastering the use of male gaze in a wonderful interview at Comicosity: Game Changers. DeLandro offers up his experience in drawing the women of Bitch Planet:
I’m trying to avoid that salaciousness. It was harder in the beginning, but now it’s becoming a little more natural to draw the women and not try to sexualize them. It’s one of those things I thought would be easy until I had to do it. I realized that I have a lot of bad habits, looking [at] attractive women and translating that to the page. And it’s not that the women I’m drawing aren’t attractive, but it’s seeing them in a different way. Trying to translate that onto the page authentically is challenging.
The shower scenes have four different depictions of women in them–the break-down of which I’ll get into in my analysis of the issue in a coming post–and deLandro manages a continuum of non-sexualized to sexualized to masterful effect. I adore that deLandro has recognized his own habitual gaze and has been transformed by drawing this comic into an artist who can pull off the deft handling of the shower scenes. Even if it meant reworking it three times to make sure it was right. I’m a big fan of art as a process.
In addition, the issue offers the rules of Duemila as mansplained via Barbies. Kam continues to put together her team, which introduces tension and some secrets. The info graphic explanation of the rules in both satirically hilarious and ironically disturbing.
And the final pages offer a satisfying action scene in the style of Pam Grier with the cherry on top of a character reveal.
This issue is not to be missed!