Cell by Cell: ‘Bitch Planet’ #5 (Part 5)


Kelly Sue Deconnick (writer), Valentine De Landro (artist), Image Comics

In Cell by Cell, I look deeply into the panels of an issue, appreciating and analyzing the story and artistic composition.

Pages 11-12 Overview

The scrimmage between the NC team and the guards begins and sees its first score. An injury on the field creates a different score to be settled.

Like with the previous pages depicting the team, these are given the two-page spread to emphasize the space of setting and give room for the many bodies in panels. De Landro creates a symmetrical mirroring of left and right on the double-page to emphasize the two sides of the game, the reactive antagonism within the story, as well as spotlight the Liu twins.


Cells 1 & 2 stretch the entire width of the two pages, establishing the space of the arena which appears to be a modified exercise yard and then the pre-game posturing of the two teams. An announcer tells us who they are: “The A.C.O. Naughty N.C.s versus the A.C.O. Grappling Guards.” The guards have their arms up in postures of bravado. This practice bout is for “education and entertainment.” The entertainment part is clear, but who is being educated and in what way is ambiguous. Certainly the NC team is still learning how to be better players, but they’re also about to learn (again) that the rules made and enforced by others will always be used (sometimes quite flexibly) against them.

Cell 3
presents Kamau’s disgusted reaction to the team’s name, clearly not chosen by her. The label of “naughty” gives them a pseudo-sexy label, like the “naughty nurse” or “naughty upstairs maid.”  It labels their involvement as clearly for male gaze and pleasure. They serve to please. This isn’t a new realization to Kamau–she declined making the team in the first place because she didn’t want to caper for The Man. Now that caper has purpose. They have a chance of using that unquestioned gaze against those in power. A distraction while they strike a blow behind the scenes. Of course, the end of this issue throws a big question mark over that plan.

Cell 4 gives space, and thus deference, to Operative Whitney as she officially starts the bout. The heavy shadow and upward angle on her face make her appear gravely intimidating. Truthfully, her role as officiant to the proceedings literally gives her the power over life and death. Does she know that even at the start of the game? Is Meiko’s death part of her plan?

The snap of the first play is starkly presented in Cell 5 with black on white silhouette. It’s a brief shock of excitement as play begins.

The next row presents the NC’s first offensive play. Cells 6 & 7 show tackles, the first by the face tattoo woman, the second by Nut. Cell 8 depicts April (or May) Liu yelling for Meiko to catch her pass. The dossier picture for May and April Liu is presented. Across the fold, May (or April) Liu states that Meiko’s got it, while we see Meiko centered, ball in hand. The dossier picture is presented again, this time as the mirror version and with the crime: “Unpermitted birth, genetic error. Interred at request of family.” The reason these two are here calls to mind both China’s one-child policy of the late 70’s as well as beliefs of some cultures that twins are evil or abominations. In such cases, the twins might be cast out to die. I’m not sure sending them to Bitch Planet is much different. Cell 9 & 10 finish out the successful play–Meiko scores, throwing her fist up in the air and yelling a “Ha!” in her fiero.

Cell 11 is another widescreen panel, running the length of both pages. It shows the aftermath of the NC’s play: four guards on the ground, one holding his knee in pain, one asking another if he’s okay, a look of anger and concern on his face. The announcer riffs on the score Meiko has just made: “Our boys are going to be looking for payback for sure!” Yes, they will be, but it won’t be through sportsmanly conduct. Now that the NC’s have actually hurt the guards’ team, they will abuse their power for retribution. They’ll want to teach those women a lesson. Education indeed.


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