Are you non-compliant?
19 Jun 2017 - 3:34 PM  UPDATED 19 Jun 2017 - 3:34 PM

The long-awaited follow-up to the image series B*tch Planet Vol 1: Extraordinary Machine (2015), has landed from its outer space, interplanetary prison.

The explicitly feminist first installment of B*tch Planet introduced the reader to a sci-fi, tech-savvy Handmaid’s Tale-esque world, where women are strictly controlled through social pressures and institutional powers.

Women who rebel – say, by fighting to receive an education, or speaking out against the powerful men who abuse them – are deemed to be ‘non-compliant’ and jailed on an interplanetary prison. The first volume in the comic drew a cast of vivid, diverse inmates on the penal planet, from women who were jailed because they murdered a man, to those who were jailed because of their weight.

The success of the first volume, and how deeply it resonated with readers, can be seen by how quickly a cult following formed around the comic. Some fans even got the ‘NC’ brand – non-compliant – as tattoos.

B*tch Planet Vol 2: President B*tch – from Eisner Award-nominated writer Kelly Sue DeConnick (Captain Marvel) and Valentine De Landro (X-Factor) is as fiercely unapologetic as its predecessor. This installment delves into the past of some of the inmates, to show how they ended up imprisoned; as well as the history of planet earth, which starts to give the reader an idea of how the new world order came to pass.

While looking backwards, Vol 2 also propels the plot forward and ramps up the action, as the situation on Auxiliary Compliance Outpost #2 gets real. Real fast.

From a narrative perspective, I suspect that reading this comic as each volume is released would be easier than trying to read single issues. There is a sprawling cast of characters, and some key players don’t appear for chapters/issues at a time.

Like Vol 1, in-between each chapter the reader gets to see standalone, single-page “advertisements” from the B*tch Planet world. These are ads selling kitchen appliances or offering advice, but all through the lens of ‘compliance,’ either by encouraging women to be better wives, or “looking after themselves” through expensive beauty products and procedures.

The art from Valentine De Landro is done in broad, powerful strokes, conveying the emotion of the characters and situations, if not always the minutiae of facial expressions. Colourist Kelly Fitzpatrick works with muted tones within the jail scenes, but works in pop-art tones of orange, green and fuchsia wherever possible.

There are still lots of unanswered questions at the end of Vol 2, about how the world got to be the way it is, but this instalment makes it clear that those are questions Kelly Sue DeConnick plans on answering. This isn’t just a surface-level story about a society that has even more of that whole ‘patriarchal overlord’ thing going on than our own. This is a story that’s going to delve into where these power imbalances come from.

Until the next volume, stay non-compliant.

Follow Melissa Wellham on Twitter and Instagram at @melissawellham.

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