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After a more or less standalone issue of the new series Bitch Planet came in the third issue, Bitch Planet #4 returns to the main story and ends up being much better because of it. There is more forward movement of the story elements here, and we see Kamau Kogo as a more decisive and forceful character.
In Bitch Planet #4, we catch up with Kogo, an inmate on the female prison space colony nicknamed “bitch planet” who has been offered the chance to put together a team for the deadly televised sport known as Megaton. Early in this issue, she receives a secret message to go to the showers to receive some information. There, she meets Fanny, who tells her that she is being hunted and will be killed after putting her team together. So Kogo accelerates the process of teaming building and also uses some cunning and brute force to trap a prison guard into being her accomplice, an insider who help reduce the danger to her and her Megaton team.
Since the end of the of the first issue, it’s looked like Kogo was going to be the central protagonist of Bitch Planet, but it’s been a slow developing process, mostly because of the oddly-timed diversion into the past of Penny Rolle in Bitch Planet #3. Although Kogo was the center of issue #2, it’s not really until Bitch Planet #4 that we see what Kogo’s real capabilities – in terms of strength, instincts, intelligence, and cleverness. If the powers that be are underestimating Kogo as a threat, it sure looks like they will soon find out that she can throw their plans into disarray.
Regular artist Valentine DeCastro returns for Bitch Planet after a guest artist (Robert Wilson IV) filled in on the previous issue. He manages to run through a number of different styles in the course of one single comic book. He has a cool panel early in the issue when Kogo is resuming candidates wherein the background is type reviewing the inmate’s basic info. He also gets to draw a neon Megaton instructional video. The best moments of art, though, are the action sequences, both in the first Megaton scrimmage for Kogo’s new team and Kogo’s shower fight with the guard who will be her “partner.” Both action scenes are exciting and fluid.
The Megaton aspect of Bitch Planet is an unexpected shift. When the series started, it seemed likely that the comics would contain action, political sentiment, intrigue, violence, all with a feminist slant. I did not, however, expect “sports drama” to become one of the series’ themes. Yet this is an intriguing story point as it gives the issues a clear dramatic trajectory. While I doubt Bitch Planet will turn into Remember the Titans or We Are Marshall, having Kelly Sue DeConnick use the tropes of sports movies for her motives sounds worth reading. (Also, the direction of Bitch Planet is looking more like dystopian futuristic competitions such as in The Running Man or Rollerball than a traditional sports story.)
Bitch Planet #4 is a good rebound from the previous issue, which was a little predictable and clichéd. With the issue devoted heavily to Kogo’s machinations and the overall narrative, it feels tighter and more directed. I hope upcoming issues stay on this course for at least a little while, giving readers a good idea of the big picture of Bitch Planet and the roles that all of the characters are going to play.