After that headline, I suppose we should just launch right on into this thing, shouldn’t we…?
Bitch Planet 1, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro
This is some bad ass shit here, folks. A feminist polemic disguised as an exploitation comic. A darkly funny near-future satire. A sci-fi “women in cages” book complete with violence, nudity, sleaze, and my new favorite line of dialogue ever:
But I should back up a bit. Bitch Planet is the new comic from Kelly Sue DeConnick, author of a bunch of Captain Marvel comics and (more importantly) the fantasy western Pretty Deadly. And good as that book’s been, this one might be better. It’s about a future society where “non-compliant” women are arrested and shipped off to a prison planet, where they’ll spend the rest of their lives. Most of them seem to be genuine criminals. Murderers and the like. But there’s also a political dissident in their ranks, someone who “volunteered” to go there, and a woman whose only crime seems to revolve around getting divorced.
After a great opening sequence involving a riot (the inciting incident of which you can see above), the story settles into a sequence revolving around that unfortunate divorcee’s attempts to get herself freed. Her husband’s working on the authorities back on Earth at the same time, and his dealings with the bureaucracy are intercut with her discussion with a prison authority figure. Except the “authority” she gets to see is a giant, hyper-sexualized holographic nun…
…who turns the situation on its head by making it into a confession. And her husband… Well, this next bit’s a pretty major SPOILER for the issue, so you might want to skip ahead to the next paragraph now if you want to maintain a virgin mind on this thing. Seriously. Just move on now. Go. Okay… You’ve been warned… After several pages of argument, it’s revealed that her husband’s not advocating for her release at all, but for the release of the new, younger, prettier trophy wife he tossed her over for. There was a mix-up, it seems, and both his wives got arrested. It wouldn’t have happened, of course, if he hadn’t paid to have his wife arrested in the first place, but these things can be taken care of with further cash settlements…
So, HEH. It’s a really nice sequence, working on two or three different levels at once and revealing the pitch-black humor at the heart of the book. It’s the sort of thing that sets this book apart from your average women-in-cages story, and exactly what’s put it on my “must read” list.
Artistically, it’s less spectacular. Valentine De Landro shows some storytelling chops, and occasional flashes of brilliance (I’m especially fond of the cruel curl to the holo-nun’s lip). But mostly, it’s just solid modern funnybook art. Realistic stuff that doesn’t detract from the reading experience at all, but that doesn’t add much, either. Nothing wrong with that, of course. It’s just not anything too terribly exciting.
From a design standpoint, though, Bitch Planet is kick-ass. That cover up there is the heat, and that logo’s so good they give it an entire two-page spread inside the book itself. It’s the work of Rian Hughes, I believe, and it goes a long way towards capturing the profane fun of the book as a whole. If the interior art was as inspired, it would land an easy A. As it is, though, I’ve got to go with…
Sex Criminals 9, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
I’ve sung this series’ praises enough in the past that I’m not going to go into detail on why this issue’s good. But there’s a PhD porn star. And a great argument sequence. And the porn version of The Wicked and the Divine…
Okay, you get the point. Sex Criminals continues to be one of the best funnybooks on the market. If you’re not reading it… What the hell’s wrong with you?!
Supreme: Blue Rose 5, by Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay
Warren Ellis continues his creative renaissance with this latest issue of Supreme, a book that combines the matter-of-fact narrative style of Trees with some of the more experimental techniques mainstream comics have seen in a while. There’s the main story about the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Ethan Crane, of course, but that’s interspersed more than ever this issue with crazy artsy sequences from the impossibly cool alternate-world Professor Night comic, and poetic flights of fancy from the broken future of this broken reboot reality.
Tula Lotay also continues to impress here, and continues to improve. Her psychedelic approach remains as beautiful as ever, but now she’s adding some really effective character acting to the mix. The patient zen amusement of her Doc Rocket has been on display for a couple of issues now…
…but this issue she gives us a priest driven to the limits of sanity by having a chunk of heaven fall on his church, and…
Yikes. That guy’s spooky even before he starts talking crazy. Maybe even moreso, because by the time he actually goes off the deep end, you’re already waiting for the snap.
Oh, and WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH THIS GUY?!!
So that’s Supreme: Blue Rose. A wonderfully dizzying read, the sort of thing that keeps me pleasantly off-balance and fills my head with things I didn’t even know I wanted. Pretty sweet.
East of West: The World, by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta
This seems to be the year for guidebooks. The Prophet crew have put out two issues of Strikefile of late, and now Jonathan Hickman’s offering up The World, a guide to the alternate history America of East of West. This one’s better, a genuine gazetteer (if I can show off my old school RPG dorkiness for a sec) with maps, economic and military data on each of the splintered American nations, and a timeline showing how this world’s history has diverged from our own.
I learned a lot. East of West is taking place a bit farther into our own future than I thought, for one thing. I suspect I should have already known that, honestly, but I’ve been guilty of enjoying the ride on this book, instead of digging in and analyzing things the way I usually do. The maps were a welcome revelation, too, and for the same reason. I had a vague idea of where some of the nations were, but had no idea where some of the others might be located, exactly, and that left the geography of the story a bit amorphous in my head.
EDIT: Or, you know… Maybe there was a map in the first issue, and I just forgot…
Either way, now I see how it all fits together, and while that renders the landscape a little less… mythic… in my head, it’s also kinda nice to know how stuff fits together.
I’m not sure how important any of it is to the larger story being told, honestly. But I ate it up with a spoon, anyway. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that Hickman is great at these kinds of diagrams, charts, and layouts. So the graphic design of this thing is freaking sharp, and I’m just as huge a dork for that as I am for fantasy worlds and their maps.
Your mileage, of course, may vary…
Goon: The Occasion of Revenge 4 (of 4), by Eric Powell
Ouch. I mean… I knew this one wasn’t gonna end well, but still… Ouch.
It could have been worse, I suppose. I thought it was going to be worse, in fact. I thought… Well, if I told you what I thought, I’d be spoiling the comic for you. So I won’t tell you that. And what actually happens is pretty freaking traumatic, anyway, so…
I like it when this book gets ugly like this. Granted, I like it better when Powell weaves some of his trademark humor into the mix. Like that time in the middle of the very serious Labrazio story when he had the Zombie Priest up there doin’ a hootchie cootchie dance, and…
I’ve said too much, haven’t I?
Ah, well. If you didn’t know I was a pre-vert by this point…
Anyway. This story’s real messed up. And it done been drawed real purty, too. Good stuff. You should read it. And cry.
Punks 3, by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Kody Chamberlain
More anarchic montage comedy, this time revolving around Abe Lincoln’s family coming by for a visit. And Sean Connery. And the ACLU. And… Some other stuff I don’t remember so much. I do remember laughing a lot, though, and that’s all that really matters in the end, eh?
Afterlife With Archie 7, by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla
I keep saying that I’m done with this book. The initial storyline is over, and the initial gag of “Archie Zombies” has pretty much run its course for me. Then a new issue comes out, and I see the pretty pretty Francavilla artwork, and… I buy it. Which is really kind of a bad decision on my part, because I read it, and I realize that… I just don’t care.
It’s not that it’s a bad comic or anything. It’s actually pretty good zombie apocalypse stuff for the teen set. Better than pretty good, in fact. The writing is solid, and Francavilla’s artwork is great classic comics illustration. I wish there were more comics this good for teenagers out there. But I’m not a teenager anymore, and I don’t care for zombie fiction in general, so… I just don’t care.
And that makes this a bitch to review. I don’t want to crap on it the way I might another book I had this sort of reaction to. It’s well-done. Just not so well-done that it overcomes my lack of interest in it.
If only it weren’t so very pretty…