Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Drawn by Valentine De Landro
Published by Image Comics
I picked this book up on impulse, just based on the title. It’s a sci-fi take on Women In Prison films. I would assume that it takes place in the future, although no date is given, but the brief scenes of life on Earth appear to be technologically pretty similar to our modern era, except with the existence of space travel. So I guess it’s more like an alternate timeline. But it’s a pretty heavy concept. This is a world where any woman who steps out of line gets sentenced to prison on another planet, from which there is no escape. And by “steps out of line,” I mean, pretty much do anything that annoys men. That includes having a strong opinion on something, or even just gaining too much weight. From the editorial in the back (written by Danielle Henderson, whom DeConnick credits with inspiration and consulting in the development of this book) it is clear that DeConnick is writing this story as a sort of meta-commentary on the way women who speak in public about women’s issues, especially those on the internet, often find themselves the targets of vicious hatred, as we’ve seen recently with the so-called Gamergate controversy. In a lesser writer’s hands, this could have gone horribly wrong, and just come like some preachy gimmick, but that’s not the case here.
This first issue focuses on a group of women who have been sentenced to this prison planet and we see them being processed. They’re forced to march naked through the halls as they receive their prison uniforms and ID numbers, all the way voice-overs from a hologram (in the form of impossibly beautiful woman) constantly reinforces the idea that everything that is happening to them is their own fault. Most of the women are Black or other Women of Color (reflecting modern crime statistics) and early on a riot breaks out among the new arrivals which is violently put down by the masked guards. The main character is a middle-aged White woman named Marian, who is one of the new prisoners but insists that she’s innocent and doesn’t belong there. This appears to be confirmed by her husband, who we see back on Earth pleading for the officials in charge of the prison planet for his wife’s release. We learn that the husband had an affair with a younger woman, and when Marian found out she had the nerve to get angry about it. That is her crime. But she said that she realized her mistake and forgave her husband, because it was her fault for not being loving enough to him. She actually blames herself for driving him to have an affair.
Seriously, how effed up is that?
But Marian’s dialog is effective in establishing the perverse New World Order that these women live in. As both Marian and her husband plead their cases, things seem to be going her way. But then…TWIST ENDING! Nope, I’m spoiling it but, hot dang, I did not see that coming! But now I can’t wait to read the next issue!
The writing on this issue is perfect, I have zero complaints. I’ll admit that I was initially less enthusiastic about the art, De Landro’s style is not generally my cup of tea. But re-reading this issue a couple of times, I’ve come to appreciate it a bit more. I think she fits the dark ominous tone of the story pretty well. For the record, there are plentiful amounts of female nudity on display in this title, which I’ll admit surprised me a bit. That will limit the potential audience for the book, as minors will be unable to purchase it, and even some adults may reject it for their own reasons. On the other hand, it shows that the creators will not be holding back in this title, giving you a raw and unconcerned looked at prison life. Fans of OZ and/or Orange Is The New Black should be encouraged to check this out, even if they don’t usually read comics.
All in all, a great first issue, full of drama and suspense with surprising twists that will keep you on edge from the first page to the last. Highly recommended.