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The latest issue of Bitch Planet, the women-in-prison series from Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro, concludes the first arc of the series with a pretty huge surprise. Bitch Planet #5 also sees the women’s Megaton team in action against competition for the first time. Although it’s overall a good issue, some of the many story threads of the series so far have prevented Bitch Planet from being as strong as it could be.
The biggest thing to occur in Bitch Planet #5 is the death of one of the team regulars. It’s a pretty shocking moment (I won’t reveal which character dies) that occurs at the end of the issue. It is also a direct result of the women prison team’s first match, which takes place against a team of guards. I don’t know if the death of a prisoner of color while in custody in Bitch Planet is coincidental or a direct response to those types of recent occurrences in our world. Whatever the case, the moment – even though it occurs through a fictional game – has a strong resonance. It’s also likely to have a big impact on the characters in the upcoming issues of the series.
Looking at the series so far, there are many things to like about Bitch Planet. It’s got a lot of attitude and interesting themes. Many of the characters are engaging. The art is frequently quite memorable. However, it’s hard to say that the series is quite yet outstanding or can’t miss. DeConnick has peppered the first five issues of Bitch Planet with many characters and story threads. I know these will probably eventually pay off, but at times, such as when new characters are introduced in Bitch Planet #5, it slows the momentum of the series.
There are so many story elements and themes going on in Bitch Planet that the series hasn’t really explored most of them in any detail. I think it’s okay to give an audience many different threads in a story, but at some point, it can get to be overkill. I have found it frustrating at times that we haven’t spent more time with some of the central characters of this series. There are moments, but they are frequently interrupted by scenes with supporting characters.
On the positive side, Valentine De Landro has a distinctive look to his illustrations. There is a bit of looseness to his drawing, especially in faces that can make expressions a little difficult to read or even look exaggerated. Still, his art has a roughness that suits this story well. When Bitch Planet #5 shifts to the Megaton match, De Landro excels in presenting those scenes. Drawing sports is a surprisingly hard thing to do well, but he gives us clear and dramatic renderings of those moments.
Personally, the death of the major character in Bitch Planet #5 doesn’t hit as hard as I think it is supposed to because I don’t feel like I knew that character especially well. It’s surprising and somewhat sad, but I think her death may have had a bigger impact on readers if we had spent more time getting to know her. This is the danger of sprawling stories, and DeConnick has added a lot to the first arc. Bitch Planet is a good series that I like reading, but it has the potential to be much, much more.