Are you ready to overthrow the patriarchy? Well that’s too damn bad because it’s too rich, clever, and well-entrenched to surrender to any kind of head-on attack. But what if some very clever women played the men’s game well enough to find themselves in the right place at just the right time to take out a testicle or two? Then you have the first volume of “Bitch Planet” by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artists Valentine De Landro (and guest artist Robert Wilson IV). It’s a sci-fi spin on the women in prison exploitation trope with a bit of “The Longest Yard” mixed in for good measure. It starts off with Koko Kamau, new arrival to the off-world correctional facility nicknamed “Bitch Planet,” who winds up getting caught in a riot and framed for the murder of another inmate. She’s promised her freedom if she can assemble a team of women to play the brutal rugby-esque futuresport known as megaton, to facilitate an inspirational story for the people who run the team. Koko has some other plans, including finding her sister and showing that the patriarchy has picked the wrong woman to mess with.
This is a million miles away from DeConnick’s other Image series, “Pretty Deadly,” in terms of style and entertainment value. Where that title was slow, ponderous, and too arty for its own good, this one is a raucous grindhouse thrill ride. The odds are against the women and the game is rigged, but they’ve got a plan and a willingness to get their knuckles bloody to see it through. That viciousness propels the narrative, but it also has a wide streak of irreverence and humor running through it as well. You can see it from the start when Penny, the book’s plus-size breakout character, cracks a guard upside his head for giving her a prison jumpsuit that’s way too small. Even if there are parts where the book’s message of female empowerment and the evils of men becomes a bit too on-the-nose, its lower sensibilities pull things down before they become terminally high-minded. Vol. 1 of “Bitch Planet” was a ton of fun, and I can’t wait to see where DeConnick and Landro take things next.