With the surging popularity of feminist science fiction and female-led dystopian storylines (see authors Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, and Nnedi Okafor, to name a few)—it’s not surprising to see that a comic like Bitch Planet has quickly gained a dedicated audience since its premiere in 2014. Fans of this story about women relegated to a prison planet for non-compliance can satiate their need for more of the world with Bitch Planet: Triple Feature, Vol 1. This trade volume collects issues 1-5 Bitch Planet: Triple Feature, a spin-off of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine DeLandro’s main Bitch Planet series. Each single issue of Triple Feature includes 3 stories by 3 different artists and writers. This means that this volume showcases a wide variety of creators, many of whom are women of color.
The Triple Feature concept—three short stories in each issue—plays off double feature movie pairings, with a distinct exploitation film theme. In the traditional setup for a double feature, the films can talk to each other or speak for themselves. The characters and plots found in the Triple Feature stories do not directly speak to each other and will not play into the main arc, but together, they more fully build the world of Bitch Planet.
The 15 stories in the Triple Feature trade cover topics such as sexual harassment in the workplace, online dating, police violence, body dysmorphia, racism, and cultural appropriation. These issues are portrayed satirically in a sociocultural environment only a few steps away from our own. While almost all of the stories are disheartening because of their believability, they create opportunities to discuss what needs to change to avoid seeing these stories play out in our future.
In one highlight of the collection, “What’s Love Got to Do With It” by Jordan Clark and Naomi Franquiz, a young single nurse, Amalla, must find a man in the next two weeks because her parents can no longer afford to pay the “Old Maid Tax.” She tries a blind date, online dating, and a dating app, all of which are met with disasters that readers can easily relate to in our world of Match.com and Tinder. Amalla’s sister finally suggests a loophole—and the story closes with Amalla receiving a full tax waiver for being the surrogate mother of a baby that is rated for its pale skin tone.
Another great short is “Everyone’s Grandma Is a Little Bit Feminist” by Matt Fraction and Elsa Charretier. In it, Kimmy is bringing her fiancée, David, home for Christmas to meet her wealthy family. He’s nervous that they’ll make a big deal about him being Jewish, and prior to entering the house, Kimmy warns him, “And don’t worry about Nanna, if she says anything weird just ignore her.” Nanna in her wheelchair makes commentary from the sidelines about women in her generation being able to experiment and find independence in their careers. Kimmy reproaches Nanna, saying “Nanna, the world is a different place now and things have changed. What used to be okay and right for your generation just isn’t anymore for our generation.” The short ends with Nanna in an NC (noncompliant) uniform with other elderly women around her, being assured by a nurse that she will be well cared for.
Interspersed between issues are photographs of women in red NC overalls as cosplay characters from Bitch Planet, along with the Twitter handles of the women pictured. The volume concludes with an interview with De Landro and Rian Hughes, who designed the trade cover, with character sketches from a few of the artists, and with brief bios of all of the contributors.
Some reviews complain that the volume doesn’t advance the plot of the series and that the vignettes are too short to develop interest or investment. In response, I want to draw attention to the genre of flash fiction. Flash fiction stories are fewer than 2,000 words. To appreciate them, you must consider that every word and image is painstakingly chosen, and what’s left out is almost as important as what’s included. The same goes for these 15 short stories—they serve as snapshots of the daily experiences of women living in a white cis patriarchy.
As with the two trades in the main arc, Triple Feature is rated M for Mature, but would be appropriate for older teens. The comic does depict several violent scenes and some female nudity. Comic readers who prefer a consistent art style throughout a book might not enjoy this trade as well as they did the two main arc trades.
This trade would appeal to anyone already invested in Bitch Planet, as well as to devotees of the Handmaid’s Tale and fans of the art and style of the exploitation film genre.
Bitch Planet Triple Feature, Vol 1
By Cheryl Lynn Eaton, Andrew Aydin, Conley Lyons, Che Grayson, Danielle Henderson, Jordan Clark, Alissa Sallah, Dylan Meconis, Kit Cox, Marc Deschamps, Sara Woolley, Vita Ayala, Bassey Nyambi, Alobi, Nyambi Nyambi, Jon Tsuei, Matt Fraction
Art by Dylan Meconis, Sara Woolley, Maria Fröhlich, Joanna Estep, Craig Yeung, Sharon Lee De La Cruz, Ted Brandt, Ro Stein, Naomi Franquiz, Alec Valerius, Vanesa R. Del Rey, Mindy Lee, Rossi Gifford, Chris Visions, Saskia Gutekunst, Elsa Charretier
Image Comics, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: M