***This is an advanced review as the comic will be available on Wednesday, February 18th. Fear Not, this review contains no major spoilers.***
words: Kelly Sue DeConnick/ art: Robert Wilson IV / cover: Valentine Delandro / Image Comics
I’m all smiles because Bitch Planet drops this week. I also had the biggest grin because this issue is all about everyone’s favorite: the one and only Penny Rolle. What we know about women in this comic so far? They break the rules. They make others uncomfortable. They fight back. They diligently make choices to attempt to (and at times succeed in) flip the script on you…Penny is no exception. She’s big. She’s bad. She doesn’t care if she passes your test as beautiful because she’s a certified badass who can bruise your face just as easy as your ego and have fun doing it.
“Penny” Penelope Rolle is in the spotlight here. This issue we take a little trip down memory lane as we see glimpses of her younger selves, from a child to teenager to woman struggling to keep her peace and not rage quit with the intensity of maybe this classic Kelis song.
And then I found myself holding my breathe when the topic of hair, Penny’s hair, came up. Penny, a Black woman with curly hair, curls with a texture different from the norm. Hair that doesn’t want to be tamed. I had good reason to be a little hesitant because of what seems like the constant battle for women of color, especially black women, to have to fight in a world that constantly seeks to push European beauty standards down their throats. One doesn’t have to look far from the recent backlash Ms Magazine received on a piece written and posted on their website earlier this month by a white writer on the politics of Olivia Pope’s hair (WHAT A HOT MESS). One shining truth that I saw from that fiasco was that it was yet another time that Black women were denied the agency to WRITE ABOUT THEIR OWN HAIR. Yet again, denying Black women to write about their own experiences.
— Inda Lauryn (@IndasCorner) February 4, 2015
I read this issue of Bitch Planet and started to process my feels while still rolling my eyes at Ms Magazine and all the many times my hair was the subject of unnecessary scrutiny, ridicule and even times when I wanted to do just this. I thought of writer Kelly Sue and her hesitance and her original thoughts about the envision of this comic in regards to portraying so women of color in such an environment and the message it would send in regards to race and class. I thought of Penny’s Hair in regards to being different, untamed and refusing to “act right,” a political act all in it’s own. I thought of the dehumanization she was forced to live with throughout the flash backs scenes. And then I thought HOLY FUCK; Penny has been forged from steel, diamonds, vibranium or whatever is among the strongest substances on the universe because without all of that, Penny wouldn’t be the woman who arrived to the “Planet.” She wouldn’t be the baddass, we see beating guards and taking names and she wouldn’t be the woman that keeps leaving trails of bewildered “concerned” people behind.
This is a brave issue touching bases on several big hot button topics that feminists often find themselves embroiled in, including the male gaze, body positivism and yes, even Black women’s hair. Issue #3 of Bitch Planet did make me uncomfortable. It was also an issue that made me laugh, looking star struck at Penny in the last panels. I’m okay to say that this is a comic that will make me feel some kinda way, and you know what? I’m okay with that because I see the writing on the wall. I can foresee a much grander picture where the ladies of Bitch Planet will be heroes in their own right. Not with capes or super powers but with inspiring girls and woman folk everywhere to not just be compliant, but be themselves. To be themselves as genuine as it comes, carrying with them everything that makes them different and choosing to take a stand against persons or institutions that would try to make them feel anything less than proud to be who they are.