In the exciting fourth installment of Bitch Planet: Triple Feature, we get three new stories set within the Bitch Planet world. For those who don’t know, Bitch Planet is set in a future closer than we’d like where women who stand out from patriarchal society are sent off to a prison planet. The stories in this issue are both independent of the storyline and additive to it as well-meaning that you can enjoy them with or without knowing the events of any previous issue. This makes each Triple Feature a good place for a new fan to try out the series.
The last two stories are fairly typical fare for the Bitch Planet: Triple Features. Starting with the final entry, we have “To Be Free…” by Vita Ayala and Rossi Gifford. I find it fascinating that we once again see a nod to ballet. This speaks to the level of control needed for the act and the parallels that it brings up. The art is a little too cartoony sometimes causing a mismatch with the subject material, but I really appreciated the depictions of the female form. The story itself fits roughly into the espionage genre with some nice supportive touches such as the ticking down of the clock. This is the kind of story that doesn’t quite make sense until the final panel, but trust me when I say that, as a woman, I know for myself how apt the title is. The middle story is titled “Bodymod” and it is by Sara Woolley. This was a fascinating science fiction extrapolation of our current plastic surgery trend. We get to see a spa in this world and it is quite the spectacle. The facility lowers the gravity and adds lithium in the air in order for the modified women to move about freely. Their bodies are a strange hyperbole of what many find attractive now with fantastical additions such as wings or fins. Over and over we are given the message that these women did these things for men and not for themselves. They talk nonstop about men and it even shows “You do it for him” at one point in the background. This is a great example of the materials Bitch Planet covers and new readers should look to this story more than the other two as a judgment point.
In my opinion, the best story is the first one titled “Life of a Sportsman” by Marc Deschamps and Mindy Lee. Unlike most stories, this focuses on men and the damage that they too suffer from living in a patriarchal system. Examples seen in this include the focus on a man’s physicality as his primary feature, the inability to openly diet, and the ever-present fear of not being “man enough.” More than anything, the glorification of aggressive behaviors is the main subject as we follow the rise of Megaton star Mitch Herman, which runs directly alongside an escalation of his violent behavior. Mirroring today, this touches on domestic abuse and the concussion problems that plague American football. Of course, he is still deemed as not manly enough and another player is right on his heels ready to follow the same path. The illustrations are nothing too special, but I love the way the details in the background make this feel like a very manly story and Leonardo Olea’s brightly saturated coloring provides a very intense feeling that matches the themes as well. This is a story that needed to be included because it serves as a good reminder that feminism supports the better treatment of men too.
As far as the other additions to the issue, Bitch Planet once again nails it. We get part three of “Future(ist) Conversations: Jamais Cascio on the Future of Race & Gender” where they tackle the “overwhelming minority” issue as people outside of the straight white male spectrum are seen as an invading treat to various industries and social groups. This is particularly important with our current political climate and it does get weighed down a bit with this poignant issue. Before it gets too heavy though, we get “Bitches be like…” with reader’s stories of how the comic has inspired them. Then we get the highlight of this section: “Catfight High: Which Gal From the Hit Show Are you?” The fact that the quiz lacks any specificity makes it apply to any show pulling out how fixed women are in these roles. It also shows just how heteronormative, sexist, and stereotype encouraging these types of quizzes really are. Finally, of course, it ends on another fantastic cosplay.
This may not be the strongest set of stories put out in this series, but they are all important. I highly recommend this particular issue to male readers who may or may not be feminist not just because of the sports story, but because men are the focus in each story in interesting ways. This could be rather eye-opening for some. That is what is so great about this series. It takes what we see now and pushes on it just enough so that we can see it in a whole new light.
Story: Marc Deschamps, Sara Woolley, Vita Ayala
Art: Mindy Lee, Rossi Gifford, Sara Woolley
Cover: Valentine De Landro