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Cell By Cell: ‘Bitch Planet’ #5 (Part 5)


Kelly Sue Deconnick (writer), Valentine De Landro (artist), Image Comics

In Cell by Cell, I look deeply into the panels of an issue, appreciating and analyzing the story and artistic composition.

Pages 11-12 Overview

The scrimmage between the NC team and the guards begins and sees its first score. An injury on the field creates a different score to be settled.

Like with the previous pages depicting the team, these are given the two-page spread to emphasize the space of setting and give room for the many bodies in panels. De Landro creates a symmetrical mirroring of left and right on the double-page to emphasize the two sides of the game, the reactive antagonism within the story, as well as spotlight the Liu twins.


Cells 1 & 2 stretch the entire width of the two pages, establishing the space of the arena which appears to be a modified exercise yard and then the pre-game posturing of the two teams. An announcer tells us who they are: “The A.C.O. Naughty N.C.s versus the A.C.O. Grappling Guards.” The guards have their arms up in postures of bravado. This practice bout is for “education and entertainment.” The entertainment part is clear, but who is being educated and in what way is ambiguous. Certainly the NC team is still learning how to be better players, but they’re also about to learn (again) that the rules made and enforced by others will always be used (sometimes quite flexibly) against them.

For the rest of the analysis, click through to PopOptiq.


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Cell By Cell: ‘Bitch Planet’ #5 (Part 4)


Kelly Sue Deconnick (writer), Valentine De Landro (artist), Image Comics

In Cell by Cell, I look deeply into the panels of an issue, appreciating and analyzing the story and artistic composition.

Pages 9-10 Overview

With the turn of a page, the issue takes us back to the conversation between Father Josephson and Makoto “Mack” Maki. Gone are the assistant and the video screen. Tonally this scene is more intimate and more subdued. Emphasis has to be on the emotional shifts, and they are subtle. Maki keeps his internal thoughts and emotions tightly guarded, and Valentine De Landro has to subtly show them and cannot risk distraction.

These pages show a literary communion. Josephson’s goal, by sharing drinks, is to bring them together in service of his plans for the ACO team and the financial betterment of the Duemila conference. However, at every panel break, we see the tension of the communion. Maki doesn’t want to be involved, and it is only through manipulative coersion that Josephson succeeds. BP5-9-10-full

Page 9

Cell 1: Josephson is foregrounded, though we see only his torso. He’s taking up space, being afforded, visually, a casual importance. He pours two drinks, an act of communion to connect on the issue at hand. Maki sits on the couch behind him, visually much smaller, facing away from Josephson slightly. Even in this long shot De Landro expresses Maki’s worry through the tilt of his eyebrows. He says, “Six weeks isn’t a lot of time.”


Read the rest of my analysis over at PopOptiq!

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Cell By Cell: ‘Bitch Planet’ #5 (Part 3)

BitchPlanet05CoverIn Cell by Cell, I look deeply into the panels of an issue, appreciating and analyzing the story and artistic composition.

Pages 5-6

The 2-page title spread and credits. This spread juxtaposes the lofty diction of the Fathers’ decree of their punishment with the faces of the newly formed ACO Megaton Team. And as they are in the action of the story, the two are at odds.

The Fathers’ liken these women, “beyond correction or castigation,” to an illness–cancer–which must be cut out of the body before it is destroyed. Feminism here, the revolt against the expectations of women in society, is cast as a serious threat to society, not a force that might strengthen it by elevating the oppressed to fully participate and contribute. To keep their hold over society, the Fathers’ law is pitched with a mythic or biblical diction. Though these women are being cast out, the Mother is called upon to give their souls mercy. The Mother is the only salvation left to them.


Asserting against the Fathers’ word is the collage of faces. The mix of facial features, skin tones, and expressions gives image to the term “intersectional.” What is striking is the diversity of the team, and yet, each has an expression of contained aggression–some serious, others with a slight smirk or raised eyebrow to suggest a tinge of enjoyment. They come from different places, carrying with them the punishment of various crimes, but now they are a team.

For the rest of the article, click through to PopOptiq.


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Cell By Cell: ‘Bitch Planet’ #5 (Part 2)

BitchPlanet05CoverIn Cell by Cell, I look deeply into the panels of an issue, appreciating and analyzing the story and artistic composition.

Page 3-4

We step back from the screen to see who is watching: Father Josephson. He has a conversation with his wife before meeting with Makoto Maki who will later be revealed as Meiko’s father.

Of note on this two-page spread is the color transition repeated in the background of most panels. Blue on top, pink on bottom. The gradient is tempered with a gray to make it more subtle, but the connotative effect reinforces the hegemonic power divide that is the backbone of the series. Blue, the color of boys, on top of pink, the color of girls. Men are in power, even in the background color.BP5-3-4

Cell 1 continues world-building the Feed. The meteorologist, a pretty, big-busted woman in a strapless pink dress, predicts record-breaking heat on the west coast and mentions water-rationing. Additional text on the screen warns that people in arrears on taxes could have their water turned off–a harsh punishment that could cost lives in record-breaking heat. But this society lives and dies by its rules. Josephson riffs on the report, bridging smoothly from the Feed to his office. He’s apparently in “hot water” with the Mrs. and has his assistant get her on the phone, not using her first name but referring to her as Mrs. Josephson.

For the rest of my analysis, click through to the feature on PopOptiq!



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Cell By Cell: ‘Bitch Planet’ #5 (Part 1)

In Cell by Cell, I look deeply into the panels of an issue, appreciating and analyzing the story and artistic composition.


Kamau pictured in deep purple and red, shown to contrast the top of the cover which remains the normal pink tones. Combined with the text “STEEL YOURSELF FOR HEARTBREAK” and “WHICH WIP WILL RIP?!,” the cover coloring and heavy foreshadowing set a dark tone for the issue which will pay off emotionally later with Meiko’s death. The exploitative hype of the text fits the women-in-prison exploitation genre and functions similar to their characteristic trailers’ scintillating text and montage of violence and nudity.

Page 1

Opening the story is a full page of 12 panels depicting the Feed’s pre-season news coverage of Duemila. The panels switch back and forth between the Feed host and the Sports commentator in the field. Like most news channels, breaking news headlines and stock prices scroll at the bottom of the frame.BP5-1ALL

Cell 1 depicts the host of the program, a woman with pink hair and a purple dress. Her text bubbles are pink. The effect is to align her with the holograms used on Bitch Planet to inform and control the NC’s. The newscaster has a similar job for society at large. She informs in a particular way that works to control the populace. The journalism of this world, and ours for the most part, no longer serves the people, if it ever did. It serves the money. If the news sells ads through content or audience numbers, it plays.

Read the rest of my analysis (700+ more words!) over at PopOptiq!


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Comic Review: A-Force #2

Just a reminder–I’m not reading Secret Wars at large, so the greater context and ramifications that might be reverberating off of other comic series throughout the cross-over event are going to be entirely lost on me. However, when our toddler asked to go to the comic store on Wednesday of this week, I asked for A-Force #2 to be brought home.

aforce2runawaysIgnoring all else, this issue was worth the cover price for one panel depicting Nico’s girlfriends from her time in Runaways, especially Arsenic (may she rest in peace). I miss that young lady.

Okay, but moving away from my Runaways nostalgia, the issue opened up new questions about how this Battleworld runs, developed the relationships between the A-Force women, and gave us a better look at our sky-clad mystery lady.

Marvel’s marketing blurb:

With monsters appearing on the utopian island of Arcadia and threatening its inhabitants, She-Hulk and her team of Avengers set out to discover the source. But when they stumble upon a conspiracy that reaches far beyond Arcadia, She-Hulk may just find herself on the wrong side of the law!

aforce2coverWith the help of their Sub-Mariner pals, the team figures out what must have caused a prehistoric shark to attack Arcadia. However, the A-Force is still shaken by America Chavez’s imprisonment. Some, like long-locked Medusa, start openly questioning She-Hulk’s leadership. Meanwhile, Nico brings the sky-lady home to hide her from She-Hulk, afraid that she’ll be turned over to Doom or imprisoned like America was.

As with the first issue, this installment nicely weaves from action to character development. This is no small feat. In a comic like Iron Man or Spider-Man, or even Captain Marvel, the characters frequently interact with heavy sarcasm. That keeps the deep feels at bay. But A-Force’s characters are absolutely earnest. It takes a deft hand to move from girl-bonding character moments to out-and-out ass-kickery without making it feel campy, trite, or melodramatic. The title’s authors, Marguerite Bennett and G. Willow Wilson, totally pull it off in the writing.

Jorge Molina’s art is the other half of this success. His depictions of facial reactions build the fitting emotional tone. The sincerity stays true to the characters’ feelings and motivations without ever becoming over-the-top or ham-fisted.

As the twists of Battleworld revealed themselves to A-Force and they in turn attempted to piece together what this all meant, the narrative successfully got its hooks in me. aforce2page

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Comic Review: ‘Kid Code: Channel Zero’

kidcode1Okay, so I’m a middle-aged white woman. My relationship to hip-hop music and culture is, um, weak. I picked up Kid Code: Channel Zero out of curiosity, mainly, and to stretch my reading tendencies. The popping color and style of the art sealed the deal.

By Damian Duffy, Illustrated by John Jennings, Illustrated by Stacey Robinson

Kid Code is the first in what promises to be a long line of Black Kirby/Tan Lee productions. Kid Code: Channel Zero is a rollicking, cosmic, time-traveling adventure, fusing classic hip-hop culture and outlandish sci-fi fantasy in this alternate universe to create the ultimate mash-up. Everything’s a remix! And Kid Code and his comrades must fight against The Power, who eons ago sampled the first sounds made from the God MC and created the Dark Mix (a version of the universe that was never intended). Now there’s a race against and for time throughout the universe to assemble The Everlasting Cosmic Mixtape–nine tracks that can re-assemble the God Sample and help set things back on course.

Read the first eight pages as a sample pdf here.

Kid Code is an indie comic that retools the classic superhero good vs. evil conflict through the music and culture of hip-hop. The story starts with a remix of Genesis–this is the cosmological background for the God MC’s uni-verse, the story of the first freestyle. The uni-verse is corrupted by The Ultimate Hater, and now Knights of the Infinite Digging are tracking him (now known as The Power) down.

I can’t even begin to extrapolate the many layers of allusions embedded in the comic. There are geek-tastic comic book references, like the mock author names of Black Kirby and Tan Lee. Pop culture references to Doctor Who and Bride of Frankenstein. There are theological references like using the structure of Genesis or re-defining Akashic records. In fact, the cosmological references span many different cultures. There are even literary references to the likes of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Then there’s the hip-hop allusions. I’m sure I only caught a small percentage, like that protagonist Kid Code sports the high-top fade of Kid from Kid ‘n’ Play or that lyrics are used in dialogue–I noticed “samples” from Snap’s “The Power”, “The Humpty Dance,” and Run-DMC’s “It’s Tricky.” In fact, in the same way that Kid Code is attempting to gather up lost shards of corrupted rhymes to rebuild The Everlasting Cosmic Mixtape, the audience might do a similar thing of identifying and gathering up songs that are being mixed into the narrative. Are there nine of these peppering the 40 pages of the book? I’m not educated enough in hip-hop to know. But I think the idea of structuring the comic to be built of sampled hip-hop songs is brilliant.

So the comic is incredibly smart, but it’s also a great deal of fun. It’s witty, sassy, and having a grand time adapting comic tropes to a hip-hop format. For instance, The Power is a classic villain, but with a wide grill that reads “CREAM” (Cash Rules Everything Around Me according to the Wu-Tang).  However, for all the fun it’s having, it also has an emotional core and a universal message of strength in the face of greed, corruption, consumerism, and struggle.

The illustrations are electric. They remind me of street chalk art–exaggerated lines with popping bright colors. The depictions of the story are likewise full of energy and vision. The illustration of The Power is that of a giant mouth, grinning and all teeth. His henchmen have t.v. heads. The uni-verse floats atop giant speakers. This art is like nothing I’ve ever seen in a comic book before, but I’d love to see more of it.

In short, I really dug Kid Code: Channel Zero. I have great adoration for mash-ups of high and popular cultures, bridging gaps between people of different interests, cultures, religions, and creeds. Kid Code does this with intelligence, wit, and artistic panache. Truly, I recommend checking this one out. Perhaps we can convince Rosarium to publish another one.