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Dueling Book Clubs Review Bitch Planet Book One: Extraordinary Machine

Team Mecha Dragons

Synthetic leather wings cut through the cool night air. A snap of electrical discharge, a quick whiff of ozone, and they are gone. Long have the techno-mages tried—and failed—to study these mysterious creatures. The Mecha Dragons have left their eyries, and they are READING.

 

Cast:

  • Katie
  • Bo
  • Priscilla
  • Ian
  • Kori

Book 5: Bitch Planet Book One: Extraordinary Machine

Eisner Award-nominated writer KELLY SUE DeCONNICK (PRETTY DEADLY, Captain Marvel) and VALENTINE DE LANDRO (X-Factor) present the premiere volume of BITCH PLANET, their critically acclaimed and deliciously vicious sci-fi satire. Think Margaret Atwood meets Inglourious Basterds.

 

 

 

Round Robin

What did you think of the book’s setting?

Bo: I’m…conflicted. Like, it’s interesting, but I feel like it depends on me knowing things I don’t.

Kori: Space. Prison. It’s like every wlw’s hard-boiled wet dream.

Katie: I liked the general aesthetic of the setting. One of my favorite things (by a lot) were all of the advertisements plastered all over the background. I felt myself wanting more information, though. I know that’s probably just part of the medium, but I feel like I wanted much more backstory than what we got.

Priscilla: I really enjoyed the setting. It has a bit of a caricatural patriarchy, but that’s kind of the point. I like the sci-fi setting mixed with the retro bits.

Bo: The ads were so cruel, but they were one of the best parts. You know, since they’re supposed to be messed up.

Ian: The setting was really a character all its own, and it was interesting. The future, but not quite? I know they said it was another planet, but it was basically like just a prison. I almost felt like it wasn’t really another planet, they just told them it was.

Priscilla: Yes, I loved the ads too. Good point, Ian, I got that feeling too.

Ian: You never see outside.

Katie: Ah, that’s interesting. It hadn’t occurred to me that that was a lie.

Kori: Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine DeLandro do a really good job with the little details in this “world.”

Priscilla: YES! There are a lot of small details and Easter eggs.

Katie: I did think the setting was a little heavy-handed. I know that’s part of the point. But a part of me also thought that they could have done a bit more (regarding setting and plot) if it weren’t so over-the-top.

Priscilla: You can do a lot with a visual medium, and they used it well for that.

Bo: Oh, definitely heavy-handed on purpose. They pulled NO punches.

Priscilla: Yes, the sexism on it is very caricatural.

Kori: It had a very old-school type of grindhouse genre to it, which I love.

Ian: The setting outside was interesting, almost like the 1950s attitudes but future-y.

Priscilla: Good observation, Kori.

Ian: Yeah, the exploitation feel of it was cool.

Katie: Are any of you guys familiar with blaxploitation films? I feel like this was cribbing a lot from it, but I don’t know enough about that genre to really comment on it.

Kori: Yeah, it felt like it was definitely influenced by grindhouse and blaxploitation.

Priscilla: I think the 50s aesthetics match the archaic mentality, so that was a nice touch too.

Ian: And yeah, it has a similar aesthetic.

Bo: And is relevant to what people are trying to do today. That was the scariest part. I can see someone loving this for all the wrong reasons.

Did the characters resonate with you? What did you think of them in general?

Ian: PENNY. I love Penny.

Bo: Penny is the star of this volume, and she was fantastic. The ideal image mirror made me clap and cheer.

Kori: There are quite a few characters in this series, it’s a prison “planet” after all. And while I loved that Kelly Sue was able to give as much depth as she did to the cast in the issues she had with volume one, Penny is my stand out.

Katie: Yeah, I liked Penny best too. Did she seem like the most fully drawn? The rest of the characters I enjoyed, but they felt a bit underdeveloped to me.

Priscilla: Yes. With the caricatural bits of the setting, the characters are what keep the book serious and deep and layered. Penny was my favorite too, but she had one issue for herself, and the others didn’t, so…

Katie: I also liked Meiko. She seemed like a nice cheerful counterpoint to all the awfulness.

Priscilla: Yes, I liked Meiko too! Which makes the ending heartbreaking exactly because of what you said, Katie.

Bo: It makes sense that not everyone was as fleshed out as Penny since this is the start of the series’s run. So I’m glad for what we got of everyone else. And highly intrigued.

Priscilla: Same here, Bo. I think she did a great job in making us curious for the rest

Ian: I loved the bit when Kam and Meiko were talking, and that melee was going on in the background. Something that would be tough to do outside a visual medium.

Katie: Haha, Ian, that was one of my favorite parts.

Bo: Yes, Ian. The one woman literally jumping into the pile was incredible.

Ian: The holographic warden or whatever character was interesting. The way she’s hypersexualized to almost grotesque levels.

Katie: I was also intrigued by the guards. I’d be curious to get a backstory on them, and how they got there.

Kori: I loved the diversity of the characters.

Priscilla: I love the diversity too, Kori. Again an excellent use of visual medium: you can’t help but notice most of the inmates were WoC, but they don’t have to say it, it’s just there. And you know why.

Bo: Was the warden basically a holographic version of the woman in Penny’s “state-run” house? They looked like it to me.

Priscilla: I think all the compliant women try to follow a certain standard regarding appearance and the holographic pink chick is just an over-the-top version of that. The compliant women had scary smiles, y’all.

Kori: No shit!

Katie: Yeah! I was fascinated by the compliant women.

Ian: Very Stepford wives.

Kori: Like, creepy Stepford Wife Smiles.

Ian: LOL.

Bo: Those three in the cupcake shop freaked me out.

What didn’t work with the novel?

Bo: I feel like what didn’t work is purely because Bitch Planet is so not directed towards me.

Ian: I didn’t have a particular problem with anything in it.

Priscilla: Nothing big, really? I mean, there are bits that can be confusing at times because we don’t have the whole story yet, we’re supposed to be missing information. But I think it’s very well told and got me curious for the rest.

Ian: If anything it was heavy-handed, but I feel like that’s by design. It’s a parable.

Bo: It’s hard to really feel the impact of this world and the struggles of these women when I have absolutely no clue how this feels to go through. And that’s purely my issue, not anything actually wrong with it.

Kori: I think there’s some merit to what Bo said earlier. If it’s directed at you, you’re going to freaking love it. If it’s not, then there’s the potential to take all of the wrong lessons from it. But is that really the creator’s fault, or ours?

Priscilla: The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and it does no good for the author to say “I didn’t mean for it to be interpreted this way.” But you’re always gonna have people reading different things in a story and there’s only so much the author can control.

Katie: There were times (like I mentioned before) that I thought it was too over-the-top for its own good. But that’s a personal issue more than a general one, I think. I think I just wanted it to be telling a slightly different story? And—while this might be an issue of the medium rather than storytelling itself—I felt like it was too short. I wanted more information and a more complete story arc. But I’m sure that’ll come with time!

Ian: That’s an issue of the medium, Katie. These take a long time to make.

Katie: Yeah, that’s what I figured. I’m just impatient!

Ian: Volume 2 is out in May!

Bo: Welcome to comics, Katie. And what’s worse is you don’t know if things will actually finish or if they will finish well. “Oh surprise, we fired this whole team making this amazing story! This new team with half the talent takes over now!”

No, I’m not still bitter about Batwoman’s New 52 run. Why do you ask?

Katie: Ugh. I’ve been trained for that by epic fantasy series, but at least they gave me a thousand pages to slog through each go around. And authors usually don’t get fired?

Ian: It’s an indie book, so nobody will get fired off it.

Kori: With Image Comics, which is what Bitch Planet is published under, the creators own the story. No firing here.

Ian: But it might get delayed as people do other things.

Kori: Yes. DeConnick is a busy lady, though new Bitch Planet is dropping in June!

Priscilla: I guess this was the first book we read that didn’t have an ending? Even the ones that were part of franchises or bigger universes told an entire story, so the feeling is indeed a bit weird. But, the epic fantasy stories trained us for the delaying too, so…

Kori: It’s not like Tolkien took 84 years to read through or anything…

Bo: Why you gotta do this, Kori?

Katie: WE ALMOST MADE IT THROUGH A WHOLE CONVERSATION, KORI.

Kori: It’s my job!

Ian: No, Kori, that’s a bad Kori!

Bo: *sprays bottle of water*

Kori: Boooooooooo.

What did work with the novel?

Bo: For all my issues about not relating the way the book wants, the actual point of it was incredibly clear and awesome. They made sure you knew exactly what problem they have with society and why it sucks.

Kori: I love that DeConnick is committed to getting her characters right. She’s always been a champion of this in her stories, whether in Pretty Deadly or in Captain Marvel.

And she also listens to feedback. When she was going to add a trans character to this series, she sent out a call for trans women to give her feedback so she could do the character the right way.

Ian: Umm, all of it? I honestly liked it all. The stuff happening in the background. The goofy and sometimes poignant back matter, PENNY, all of it. All the things.

Katie: I liked that the story immediately had its own voice, style, and flair. Even though I wanted more from it at times, I think the fact that that’s present points for really good things to come.

Bo: If you’re pissed off about the plight of women in the world and want motivation, this will freaking do the job.

Kori: It’ll do the job, but it’s an in-your-face explosion of color and action and fast-talking.

Ian: I might be a bit biased because I like Kelly Sue, but I just really like this book and I’m jonesing for Volume 2.

Katie: I want more individual-character-flashbacks, ala Penny. I’m sure those are coming.

Ian: I wanted that too. It reminded me of Orange is the New Black.

Bo: They do, Katie. They have character backstories every 3-4 issues or something.

Katie: Sweet!

Priscilla: Despite the over-the-top, heavy-handed parts, I think the criticism works really well. It could’ve been really shallow in the hands of another writer, but the characters make it layered and interesting. There are some genuinely touching moments, like Penny in front of the mirror, that really won my heart. I feel like now I have to read the rest, I just have too. I wanna know how it ends and I wanna know if those women will be okay. Also, the art is amazing, and the background details are everything.

Kori: DeConnick and DeLandro made a story that goes down very easy while also addressing issues, and it doesn’t veer off too heavily into torture porn or grimdark as some of our other “issue” heavy stories have in other mediums.

Bo: As a sports fan, I’m also highly intrigued by Megaton. Oh crap, I’m turning into one of them.

Katie: Hahaha! You’re gonna be a hit at the office, Bo.

Ian: Heh, Bo are you a megaton man?

Priscilla: LOL.

What are your overall thoughts?

Kori: Buy the damned book.

Bo: It was really cool, really unique, and really in your face. This is a comic with a clear purpose and point and I always like that. Maybe it doesn’t work specifically for me like it will for others, but it’s clearly a quality story and comic I’m very interested in continuing.

Ian: While it may not be for everyone, it told a really interesting story, and I feel like it related some of the things that women have to go through in real life, albeit extreme versions.

Katie: I appreciated that while it was a serious story dealing with serious issues, it was also a lot of fun. It had a lot of style, flair, and attention to detail. There’s huge room for growth concerning character and setting. It’s not my favorite thing in the world, but I would definitely recommend it, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here.

Ian: I loved the art and the characters. I loved all of it.

Priscilla: It’s hard to judge an unfinished story, but I really like what we got so far. It’s an interesting setting, a relevant discussion, and characters I want to know better. I want to keep reading it, and I’m curious for more Kelly Sue Deconnick stories too. The art is really good, and I feel they used the visual medium really well, with small jokes and pieces of worldbuilding that could only work in comic book format.

Katie: I also appreciate that it’s called BITCH PLANET, which makes me laugh every time I see it.

Bo: The name is top class. You’re not beating Bitch Planet.

Kori: So does that make us Bitch Dragons now?

Priscilla: Bitch Mecha Dragons?

Ian: *Non-Compliant dragon noises*

Kori: Uh-oh, it looks like we’re getting ready to start marching.


Image courtesy of Image Comics

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