Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Kelly Sue Deconnick
Artist: Robert Wilson IV
Release Date: 18th February, 2015
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
Penny Rolle was never going to fit neatly into society’s pre-conceived notion of conformity. Her height, her shape, her hairstyle; everything about her offends the twisted sensibilities of her ‘fathers’, who feign concern for her wellbeing to mask their obvious disgust; their faces contorted in shock and horror as they cast a sweeping, judgemental eye over her. In this world, there are rules against such indiscretions, and if you don’t conform, the ‘Bitch Planet’ awaits.
The third issue of Bitch Planet takes a brief sidestep from the ongoing narrative to present the origin story of one of the planet’s biggest and baddest inmates. And it’s fair to say the gloves are well and truly off, as Kelly Sue DeConnick tackles head-on the struggles facing women in a male dominated society, and more importantly, the overwhelming pressures they face in an image obsessed culture that openly objectifies them.
We are shown via sepia tinged, halftone effect flashbacks how Penny has fought against those who would make her feel ashamed of who she is, with the choice of tone and effect adding real emotional weight to these scenes. The vast population of this all too familiar ‘fictional’ world freely bend to the will of the ‘fathers’; especially the women, who desperately search for new ways of becoming more aesthetically pleasing to the evermore homogenized masses.
When confronted with such pressure, anyone would consider, even for a moment, that they might be wrong, and DeConnick factors this important moment into the story. Although fleeting (it’s captured expertly in only a few panels where Penny catches sight of her reflection), the idea of bowing to societal pressure is literally wiped from her mind by a lock of hair falling across her face, a recurring metaphor in the issue used to highlight how her wild and unruly nature sets her apart from those who would ‘curl up or lay down’.
Towards the end of the issue, we find out that Penny, although very much taking after her mother, ironically has perhaps more in common with her father. DeConnick is letting us know that not all men in this society are the same, there are those who will stand up against inequality, and love unconditionally, but they are sadly in the minority. The final page is a cracker, and captures a truly heart-warming moment that perfectly encapsulates the overall message of the book.
Much like it’s protagonist, Bitch Planet #3 is bold, brash, and unashamed, and definitely worthy of your attention.