The Girl Loves Ink | Sweetheart…It’s Complicated

This is the first issue that I’ve ever read of Bitch Planet and I can see why the series is so popular.

 

 

Happy Christmas and New Year! Usually I look forward to December because it means that my birthday is near and that the current Fall Semester is coming to a close—oh, and there’s that whole Christmas thing. This December was different, however, because not only did I have finals and my birthday, like usual, but I also graduated from college (Yay!). It was a moment worth celebrating—and we did—but, that also meant that my lovely family who doesn’t live here came into town. When you’re the one member of your family that doesn’t live near the rest of your family, well, let’s just say that sometimes those forty-eight hours you spend with your family can be more tiring than the two days you stayed up working on your Middle East Politics final the day before it was due before then having to orally present the work you did on said final. I managed to get an A on that final and I survived my family being here!
This also meant that my creative drive decided to sleep for a little while—and that’s so annoying when that happens. I feel like it’s even more annoying because I’ve been spending my time reading comics that I couldn’t read during the school semester—and now I can! And, my brain wants to write about them, but it all looks like a long string of words that make no sense, kind of like a typography music video, but with no direction. So, before I start with the backlog of ideas that were forced to take a backseat because my final semester of school was not nearly as easy as I thought it was going to be, we’re going to dive right into Bitch Planet, which is on issue #6 as of January 6th.
Bitch Planet looks like it fell out of the ‘80s, which makes it a wonderful breath of nostalgia compared to the other things I’ve been reading lately, such as the All-New All-Different Marvel lineup and the collected issues that form “The Death of Captain America.” (Score one for amazing Christmas gifts!). The cover proclaims that Meiko Maki is an extraordinary machine, so I’m already excited about finding out why, exactly, she’s a machine.
The team on Bitch Planet definitely didn’t disappoint. This is a good issue to dip a toe into the pool. It’s a self-contained story, something people who read this comic more than I informed me they do this every third issue, which is a really cool idea (Kind of like Annuals in the middle of a series?). Meiko Maki reminded me of Marjane Satrapi as she portrays herself in her autobiographical graphic novels: the daughter of rebellious parents whose maturity and intelligence have been severely underestimated by the adults who are around her, mainly her parents. But that’s where the comparison between Meiko and Marjane can end.
The Makis remind me of my own family for just a moment, from a time when my brother and I were both involved in our middle school band projects and my Dad was bouncing between food x-ray technician jobs and local steel factory shindigs—and, of course, my Mom was trying to shepherd my brother into a band-oriented afterschool program. I’m pretty sure that Meiko’s speech bubbles about her sister needing to practice more than she did because Meiko was clearly the better violinist could have been speech bubbles over my head during 7th and 8th grade. Meiko even breaks from practicing to look over the blueprints for a ship that her father is constructing at work.  
So, the odd parallels to my own family dynamics aside, the main vehicle for writer Kelly Sue DeConnick’s plot to move along is the mistakes that Meiko catches in these blueprints, mistakes that her father is keeping in because he’s trying to sabotage his own project as a form of rebellion. Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry and the plans don’t make it past the eye of her father Makoto’s boss. This is where, I think, Bitch Planet really delivers on what drives fans to it. The boss really feels like a caricature of the American (arguably, the Western) fascination with Southeast Asian culture—he even comes to dinner in a robe, something that the children tease him about. After the children are sent to their rooms—which translates to hanging out in the hallway, just in earshot of that conversation that you’re not supposed to be hearing—Doug demands sake and Yume, the matriarch of this household, is just totally upset that they’re all out. Doug’s plan becomes clear, quickly: he is willing to keep quiet about these blueprint mistakes if Makoto is willing to let Doug marry one of the Maki daughters.
There’s so many layers to this exchange in the Maki’s dining room that I want to write a paper just on that scene, but my brain isn’t ready to be academic again, yet (at least not focused and academic…it’s gotta be one or the other right now). This is the first issue that I’ve ever read of Bitch Planet and I can see why the series is so popular. It’s unapologetic and feels rawer next to other titles that might be available in your local comic book stores, but that isn’t a reason to avoid it. The color and line choices (from colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick and artist Taki Soma, respectively) reminded me of Fables, which provided a comfortable environment that let me concentrate on the story itself.
Right now, Bitch Planet is in the middle of a story arc, but I am definitely thinking about picking it up at the next go-around and getting to know the world that such powerful characters like Meiko Mako and her family exist in. | Catherine Bathe

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