Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine de Landro
Reading Challenge: A book recommended by a family member
The graphic novel is a literary form I keep meaning to explore further. There are several I’ve read and enjoy a lot, but it’s been hard to venture into new ones. Partly this is because libraries tend to store their collections in the Young Adult section that’s plastered with “Teens Only Beyond This Point” signs. Partly it’s because going into a comic store knowing nothing is a dangerous (well, potentially very frustrating) experience if you happen to be a girl. As I’m a 31 year-old woman, therefore, it’s been hard to explore.
Then I went off to visit my in-laws this weekend, and it just so happened that my husband’s cousin walked in with 3 volumes of The Wicked and the Divine and volume 1 of Bitch Planet and said “these are for you guys.” And because he knows me pretty well, he pointed to Bitch Planet and said “I think you especially are going to like this one.”
This is probably where I should announce my conflict of interest: the reason my cousin-in-law was giving us these books was because he was the letterer for them. So if you need an opinion untouched by nepotism, look elsewhere.
However, I’m pretty sure I would have loved this book regardless. It’s fast-paced and full of action: it’s violent as hell but the art manages to convey the violence without reveling in it, which is a neat trick. And it’s jam-packed full of intersectional feminist goodness. Some of the lines were so close to reality, or so beautifully interpreted what ads are really selling women these days that I wanted to highlight and underline half of them.
This volume has pages of ads under the heading “Hey kids, patriarchy!” that also includes a few pieces of real information, like the sobering statistics on domestic violence. An ad for an intestinal parasite states “Stop being so fat and gross, you big fatty!” Muffins are advertised as “Now with fiber, for pooping!”
The story has heart, too. I loved “The Secret Origin of Penny Rolle” more than I can say. Sure, I guessed the twist at the end, but it was a note-perfect mini-story. The rap sheets in the last section were amazing and gut-punching, as was the end. Where is Volume 2? My dealer is about 7 hours away. Maybe I’ll have to actually brave the teens or the nerd boys to get it when it arrives. It’s worth it.
Suggested pairing: Whatever the hell you want. No one can tell you what to do. I think I’d probably pick a hoppy beer, because the patriarchy does leave a bitter taste. It doesn’t get much hoppier than an Ithaca Flower Power, so go for that if you’re feeling fully committed. I’ll probably stick with Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, myself.