Are you #NonCompliant? I sure as hell am.

wardenFrom Kelly Sue De Connick (Pretty Deadly and Captain Marvel) and Valentine DeLandro (X-Factor) Bitch Planet is a refreshing new take on exploitation film genre and a tribute to contemporary feminist politics. As hopeful as it is heart-breaking, the series explores what it means to live in a world where women are diminished, both literally and figuratively in order to comply with a socially constructed view of femininity. Sound familiar? As Danielle Henderson notes in her essay from issue one, But I’m Not Oppressed, ‘the striking thing about Bitch Planet is that we’re already on it’. As far as feminist comics go, BP is surely this years best.

Bitch Planet is a dystopian sci-fi exploitation riff about the lives of the inmates of the “Auxiliary Compliance Outpost”; an off-planet prison world, known colloquially as Bitch Planet, for women deemed “non-compliant” by a fascist, patriarchal society. The inmates are governed by a garish holographic warden created by the Bureau of Fathers to act as a confidant, head-mistress and disciplinarian to the non-compliant inmates. Her saint-come-sex-kitten visage is a powerful reminder of the roles optioned to women in a patriarchal society. A homage to the ‘women-in-prison’ exploitation sub-genre, Bitch Planet is a striking social commentary on sexism, discrimination and gender politics. Having already attracted a following of #NonCompliants on social media (many of whom boast Non Compliant tattoos), Bitch Planet is quickly asserting itself as one of this years stand out new titles.

When I first heard of Bitch Planet I knew from the provocative title alone that it was something I wanted to read, even before learning of the the storyline. I can now say without hesitation that I was absolutely hooked from the first issue. This is unlike me as I’m not typically a fan of issues; I find them too brief, expensive and unsatisfying. As an avid reader it never ceases to bother me that I could pick up an Asimov classic for a few dollars more than it costs for single issue and be thoroughly engaged for a solid two weeks. An issue, on the other hand, will entertain me for five minutes. This is the reason I held off on reviewing Bitch Planet until I had read at least the first three.

mariancollinsDespite its brevity, issue one of BP is evocative, confronting and compelling. Briefly, the first issue introduces us to the world and its characters via an illustrative but non-essential side story about Marian Collins, a dutiful wife who is confined to Bitch Planet for non-compliance after she fails to forgive her husbands infidelity. The true protagonist is only revealed at the end of this issue in a subversive bait and switch manoeuvre where the innocent Collins is swapped for the righteous Kamau Kogo, a wiry African American inmate with a ton of attitude and kick-ass fighting moves. This is a welcome change to those familiar with the ‘innocent white girl’ trope popularised in exploitation films from the 70s and now reflected in shows such as Orange is The New Black. This is perhaps one of the greatest strengths of Bitch Planet; it’s ability to reflect the intersectionality of third wave feminism in a playful homage oto 70s exploitation films. Following this unexpected reversal, issue two finds Kogo considering an offer on behalf of the Bureau to form a women’s team to compete at “Megaton”, a bloodthirsty sport played by men as a cathartic release for their supposed aggressive impulses. It soon becomes clear in an Orwellian twist that BP is a dual purpose penal planet and reality television studio. Ordinarily, this would strike me as an obvious and therefore dull method for exploring the series’ themes of power and exploitation; however, given the subversive nature of the text so far, I say BRING IT.


Issue three deviates from the main story to reveal the ‘secret origin of Penny Rolle’ (as promised on the cover), one of BPs more aggressive inmates and a clear favourite with fans. Role is black, angry, and by subjective assessment, morbidly obese. She is also absolutely fucking amazing. I would love to discuss issue three in more detail, but in the spirit of not spoiling anything I will only say that this issue is the beating heart of Bitch Planet. I spoke with a fan at the All Star Women’s Comic Book Club Meet Up this weekend who said she cried the entire way through. I’m not going to lie, the final scene had me welling up. Rolle is a powerful role model for #noncompliants; not because she is a women, black and fat, but because of the words, actions and behaviours she models through these marginal identities. I was moved by this issue in a way that I have never been moved by a comic book before. The storytelling and character development is simply stunning. No doubt the “Born Big” design (pictured left) will soon become as emblematic of BPs feminist ideology as #NonCompliant.

noncompliantFrom the bold vintage covers to the crisp inking inside, Bitch Planet is also aesthetically pleasing. One of it’s most noted features is a series of vintage in-world advertisements printed on the back cover; a brilliant device for using the format to expand the storyworld. The advertisements range from the comical, to the scintillating and downright disturbing. My favourite is this Non-Compliant classified. Whilst many have already been inspired to pledge their allegiance in ink, I’m yet to see anyone “put it on their face”. The challenge has been set.

To say that Bitch Planet is a progressive text is a gross understatement. Given the general lack of diversity in this format and the recent climate of sexism and misogyny in geek culture, BP is a game-changer. Its confronting subject, sudden reversals and dynamic female characters make it unlike any other comic on the shelf today. Let’s face it, as far as subversive, feminist sci-fi exploitation riffs go, De Konnick has the market cornered. This is just the timely response we need in an otherwise placating industry, a welcome slap in the proverbial corporate face.  I have a feeling we’ll be talking about this for a long time to come. At least I will.




Issue four of Bitch Planet is available March 18th. Find details here.