Tag Archives: valentine delandro

Preview: Barbarella #1

Barbarella #1

writer: Mike Carey
artist: Kenan Yarar
covers: Kenneth Rocafort (A), Joe Jusko (B), Joseph Michael Linsner (C), Robert Hack (D), Annie Wu (E), Kenan Yarar (F), Valentine DeLandro (G), Veronica Fish (H)
Roberto Castro (I-Sub), Classic Risqué Variant (RI), Annie Wu (RI-B/W), Joseph Michael Linsner (RI-Virgin), Kenneth Rocafort (RI-B/W), Joe Jusko (RI-BVirgin)
FC | 32 pages | $3.99 | Mature

Earth’s star-crossed daughter is back! When Barbarella wanders into a war zone, the theocratic rulers of Parosiaarrest and imprison her. A prison break is brewing, but now that she knows what the Parosians do to their own citizens Barbarella decides to make this fight her own…

Preview: Vampirella #5

Vampirella #5

writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Jimmy Broxton
covers: Philip Tan (a) Valentine DeLandro (b) Cosplay Photo Variant (c)
subscription cover: Jimmy Broxton (d)
incentive covers: Cosplay Photo (“virgin art”), Philip Tan (B/W art), Jimmy Broxton (B/W art), Philip Tan (“virgin art”)
Order the cover of your choice.
FC • 32 pages • $3.99 • Teen+

This is it! You’ve gotten to see the Great Beyond, meet the fellow who’s running it, and savor the world as we don’t know it that feeds into everything! Now it’s time for Vampy to do something that will change… well, everything! The world will never be the same after this, and that just may not be a good thing!

Ms. Monster

bitch planetDuring my undergraduate study, I spent an enlightening semester learning entirely about women writers and how they write women and girls. It’s something I’ve carried with me, especially in reading comics. While it is now less rare for women to occupy a central role in comics, the field is still overwhelmingly male-dominated and male character-centric. This often leaves female characters in a space that is Other, or separate from the norm.

With creator-owned comics on the rise, women are now able to carve spaces in which to tell their own stories. Two stories in particular, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine DeLandro’s Bitch Planet and Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s Monstress, challenge the Othering of femininity by exploiting the connection of femininity to monstrosity and allowing characters to reclaim this aspect of their identities by embracing the monstrous.

It is possible to understand this reclamation of identity by using Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection as a lens. Kristeva is a Bulgarian-French philosopher, psychoanalyst, and feminist whose work spans multiple disciplines but is prominent in structuralism and poststructuralism.

Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection outlines Kristeva’s theory of abjection in a very French and somewhat complex way. The abject, by definition, is a “non-object” that lingers in a person’s psyche as a consequence of repression. The abject disturbs system, identity, and order. To abject something is to other it from the “I,” pushing it away from the self to maintain personal boundaries.

Monstress01_CoverA simple example of this sort of behavior is food loathing. This is a common behavior, especially in children, but the dissonance between something that is supposed to nourish and the unpleasant taste or nauseous feeling causes abjection. If you hated broccoli as a kid or avoid a certain food after eating something and getting sick, this is a basic form of abjection.

Abjection can also exist among people, so when discussing abjection it is important to make a distinction between subject, object, and abject. The subject is “I.” (When you, reader, speak about yourself, your thoughts, you say “I.” You’re subject.) Now table that thought for a moment. The difference between object and abject is contingent on one point. Objects hold weight and meaning. The abject is not an object because it does not hold weight. The only “object” quality the abject possesses is that it opposes the “I.”

One example Kristeva uses to distinguish each definition is that of a corpse. Kristeva says corpses are simultaneously subject, object, and abject–the body was once a person, a subject, but became object after death. Corpses are also abject because they force us to consider the uncomfortable truth of our inevitable deaths.

What both the food loathing and corpse examples have in common is the idea that they are improper or unclean. People and bodies will abject things they deem “incorrect,” but what is unclean, gross, or incorrect doesn’t directly cause abjection; they create a disruption of a person’s system, identity, and order and that causes abjection. Disruption of the boundaries demonstrates their fragility.

Abjection of people is driven by a failure of one member of a group to recognize its kin. This same lack of recognition drives fear of what has been deemed Other. A person possessing some quality that has been deemed “incorrect” on a larger social scale causes a lack of recognition, which is perpetuated on an individual level. This creates a cycle of fear and rejection by engendering disgust for the “not normal” or “not human.” Social constructs are upheld and continue to oppress the abject.

BitchPlanet02_CoverAccording to Kristeva, one natural reaction to abjection is religion, which is an attempt to create order where the abject has disturbed it. Using this reasoning, the formation of governing bodies–including the Cumaea in Monstress and the male-led government in Bitch Planetare an attempt to control the abject.

Kristeva says another natural reaction to the abject is to create art. Using comics to explore the abject allows both readers and creators to approach the subject in worlds both fictional and real. The settings of the comics discussed here (an off-world prison and an alternate version of early 20th century Asia) allow writers and artists to discuss issues present in real life. The main characters of both comics are monstrous women, all of whom are attempting to create their own space in the world. Comics give these creators a space to both examine the abject and criticize the social systems that oppress the abject in a fictional world, as well as in our real one. (Bitch Planet also accomplishes this by including essays in the backmatter of single issues.)

In Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine DeLandro’s Bitch Planet, women who are determined “non-compliant” are shipped to an off-world prison. Non-compliance in women is determined by any number of “crimes,” including being “aesthetically offensive,” obese, or transgender. In Bitch Planet, misogyny is taken to an extreme level. Women who fall outside of a narrow box of acceptable gender behavior and presentation and individuals who don’t conform to traditional binary standards are punished for existing. It’s a harsh critique of the standards women are held to in real life–both behaviorally and aesthetically.

Monstress, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, combines a number of fantasy elements that make up an alternate Asia, which plays home to Maika, an Arcanic teen. The Arcanics’ magic makes them highly desired by the Cumaea, a religious order that uses Arcanic Lilium to enhance the powers of its members. Arcanics are regarded as a lowly sub-human class, which allows the story to explore themes of racism and slavery. Since it is told from Maika’s perspective, much of the story also focuses on her strength (inner and outer) as she resists the oppressive force of the Cumaea.

Monstress05_CoverThough they take place in vastly different worlds, Bitch Planet and Monstress feature protagonists who have been Othered in some way. The characters readers are meant to root for and maybe even identify with are seen as non-human because they disrupt established social structures and system, identity, and order.

Inmates of the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost are abject for any number of reasons, from not being feminine enough to “driving” their husbands to infidelity. They are treated inhumanely, used only as an example for other women and bodies in sport. The women find a sense of community with each other, bound by their monstrous qualities.

Maika of Monstress is introduced as a slave, immediately establishing her as abject and Other. This is only furthered when readers learn of her powerful psychic connection to a literal monster that she refers to as her “hunger.” Maika is considered a monster even before she embraces this title.

The pathologization of women’s behavior in Bitch Planet and demonization of Arcanics mean that these characters are considered monsters regardless of whether their behavior reflects that designation. Neither comic is subtle about its connection of femininity to the monstrous, and both take care to show that women’s experiences with society intersect differently based on race and sexuality.

The metaphor of the monstrous is accessible in Bitch Planet, where the particularly relevant issue three focuses on how women are punished for attempting to conform to social standards (taking part in harmful diets and beauty rituals) and for living outside these standards (in which case they are made social outcasts). The metaphor is equally accessible in Monstress, where Maika quite literally lives with a murderous monster called Monstrum inside of her. The Monstrum, though dangerous, helps Maika to defend herself against threats and to withstand constant dehumanization.

These works are important because they bring to light issues that some readers may not experience because of their social or economic privileges. By forcing readers to interact with abject concepts, these stories also force readers to consider perspectives they otherwise wouldn’t because readers themselves wish to escape the uncomfortableness of the topic. These stories also examine institutions which have been founded on oppressive platforms whose original intent was to protect the privileged from the abject.

Despite being considered monstrous, the characters in either comic embrace this aspect of their identity. Inmates in Bitch Planet use their strengths as non-compliant women (both physical and mental) to fight for their freedom. While Maika’s goal is to find answers about her mother’s death, she also uses her monstrousness to protect other Arcanics and fight the Cumaean order. This is a way to claw back at the systems that have rejected and othered them and to reclaim their identities and their rights to live a free and happy life.

Characters pushing back against oppressive systems reflect the real-life struggle for equality between the abject and those who have abjected them. These characters want to be seen as an “object” rather than Other in the sense that this would allow them to be recognized by their peers as non-abject and human.

Though Bitch Planet and Monstress explore vastly different worlds, they both offer a unique approach to examining the abject. And as female characters fight for and claw out their own space in their worlds, their creators do the same in ours.

This paper was originally presented as part of the 2016 Comics and Popular Arts Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

Review: Bitch Planet #7

STK696468Bitch Planet returned from its break this week and from the first page, disposability seems to be the name of the game for the Fathers in this arc titled “President Bitch.” If you ever doubted how much this book hurts with its more true to life aspects, the first page is a security guard allowing an AI to open fire on three young black children trying to make a shortcut because they “look sketchy.”

With the Fathers making the decision to keep Meiko’s death a secret from her father, much of the issue revolves around the beginning work on the Megaton stadium with Makoto arriving to supervise the building and the NCs being the one to start digging. The divide between the NCs and the men in charge becomes apparent, with the men being greeted with warm towels and tea versus the cattle call of women prisoners opened the very first issue back in December 2014. As our omnipresent security guards point out though, the “power of man is fickle as hell” since this stadium and the guests in charge of the creation comes at the expense of other much needed repairs to the ACO. Coming from a city that is a year out from opening a new football stadium, I find myself in agreeance with the two for the first time.

Even in death, Meiko’s influence on the the ACO is still felt. Instead of dealing with him directly, the wardens assign a Model program to be Makoto’s aide, which makes the inevibility of him discovering Meiko’s death even worse. On the flipside of this, the wardens decide that instead of charging the man responsible for Meiko’s death, Whitney will take the blame and be charged for her death as well as any other charges involving guard injuries in the incident. It really is a stark reminder that even when a woman seems to benefit directly from the patriarchy, she is just as easily on the chopping block for it when the time comes. As much as Whitney has worked against the NCs up until this point, it is impossible to take joy in her fall from power when it is made clear that she is the scapegoat for the irresponsibility of the guards.

The most powerful scene in this issue though happens between Kam and Penny though. Kelly Sue Deconnick has always had a knack for more quiet scenes where a lot is said without saying too much at all. In it, Penny sits in the shower, feeling guilty for Meiko’s death and wishing that she would wash away into the drain. Kam takes a seat beside her, reminding her that there really wasn’t much she could do and that sometimes “strong ain’t strong enough.” The essay from Angelica Jade Bastién in the backmatter elaborates more on what this scene is going for, but in the pages itself, it’s a gorgeous piece of synchronicity between story and art, where so much can be said in two panels of handholding.

Speaking of art, this is the second issue where Kelly Fitzpatrick is on colors. Her style is a bit more shaded and toned down that previous colorist Cris Peter, but it works. The story’s tone has taken a bit of a turn since Meiko’s death, so the slightly saturated hue works well for the book. Don’t worry, the sense of over the top color is still there. The orange in the Megaton site and the stormclouds in Whitney’s room are particularly well done in this regard.

With the start of a new arc, Bitch Planet is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. Even in an issue setting up the building blocks for the rest of the arc, it still feels like a gut punch as the fallout from Meiko’s death takes center stage. I would hope that it doesn’t take anyone else in the process, but that would be tempting fate just a bit too much in a book where the ones in charge of the world it exists in see lives as disposable when they don’t fit into the neat boxes prescribed for existence.

Correction: A previous version of this review stated that this was Kelly Fitzpatrick’s first issue when it was her second.

Story: Kelly Sue Deconnick Art: Valentine Delandro and Kelly Fitzpatrick
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.25 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: Bitch Planet #4

Bitch Planet #4

Story By: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art By: Valentine Delandro
Cover By: Valentine Delandro
Cover Price: $3.50
Digital Price: $2.99
Diamond ID: JAN150670
Published: April 29, 2015

A secret prisoner may be the ringer Kam’s girls need if they hope to survive the coming deathmatch. Series co-creator VALENTINE DE LANDRO (X-Factor) rejoins KELLY SUE DeCONNICK (PRETTY DEADLY, Captain Marvel) on art.

BitchPlanet04_Cover

Preview: Bitch Planet #3

Bitch Planet #3

Story By: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art By: Robert Wilson IV
Cover By: Valentine Delandro
Cover Price: $3.50
Digital Price: $2.99
Diamond ID: DEC140721
Published: February 18, 2015

“Too Big to Fail” reveals the specific events leading to zaftig Penny Rolle’s incarceration. ROBERT WILSON IV (Knuckleheads) joins KELLY SUE DeCONNICK (PRETTY DEADLY, Captain Marvel) on art duties for this flashback issue.

BitchPlanet03_Cover

Preview: Legends of Red Sonja #5 (of 5)

LEGENDS OF RED SONJA #5 (of 5)

Gail Simone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Blair Butler (w)
Jack Jadson, Valentine Delandro, Jim Calafiore (a)
Jay Anacleto (c)
FC • 32 pages • $3.99 • Teen+

FINAL ISSUE!!! The epic mini-series featuring all-star creators concludes! This prestigious series, celebrating the She-Devil’s 40th anniversary goes out with a bang, including stories written by Gail (Batgirl) Simone, Blair (Attack of the Show, Heart) Butler, and Kelly Sue (Pretty Deadly) DeConnick, with gorgeous art by Jack Jadson, Valentine, and Jim (Secret Six) Calafiore. Sonja makes her final showdown against the brutal and deadly Grey Riders!

LegendsSonja05-Cov-Anacleto