By Kelly Sue DeConnick, Robert Wilson IV, and Chris Peter
This is hopefully the first of many “special third” issues for the exceptional new series, Bitch Planet. Issue #3 takes a quick break from the main plot to take a look at the history of Penny Rolle, who has been presented, thus far, as the prison muscle. Kelly Sue and company continue to successfully capture the feel of an exploitation film in comic form. If you are a fan of exploitation films, or bad-ass women who try their damnedest to not let their male-dominated society tell them how to live, you need to be reading this series!
This issue fills an important part of the women-in-prison and revenge exploitation film formula, which is providing humanity for and establishing the innocence of one of the main protagonists. Through the first two issues, the reader sides with the non-compliant women on Bitch Planet because of the horrible world that’s been laid out for them to exist in. Now Kelly Sue has given us a little more background behind one of the imprisoned faces so we can identify with her. If the prisoners do end up getting revenge for their horrible treatment on Bitch Planet, it will be important for developing catharsis to make sure we know that these women are either innocent or have been forced into their current situation by their oppressors. Penny Rolle’s back story is perfect in this regard because we see that Penny was a kind, gentle girl who was consistently abused through to adulthood by the extreme patriarchy presented in Bitch Planet.
Guest artist Robert Wilson IV and regular colorist Chris Peter provide the visuals for this issue. Wilson’s art mixes seamlessly with what Bitch Planet co-creator Valentine De Landro has provided in previous issues, so much so that it wasn’t readily apparent to me, after a month away, that De Landro wasn’t involved in this issue. Upon reviewing this one with previous issues, its clear that Wilson’s style is a little cleaner with more defined facial features. It works well in this case because it accentuates the intimate feeling associated with exploring Penny’s childhood. The flashbacks are extremely well drawn in this issue. The visual style changes dramatically when showing Penny’s past and it looks fantastic. Chris Peter colors the flashbacks in all Ben-Day dots which really creates a rounder, softer feel to the flashback scenes. Peter has used Ben-Day dots in previous issues, but in this particular issue she uses them perfectly to age the flashbacks and evoke warm, nostalgic feelings.
This was a great, one-shot type break for Bitch Planet. Issue #3 provides some substance to the women-in-prison exploitation theme presented in the first two issues while also teaching a positive body image lesson through Penny’s experiences.