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Cell by Cell: ‘Bitch Planet’ #6 Part 3

Cell by Cell: ‘Bitch Planet’ #6 Part 3

Bitch Planet #6 cover

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

Bitch Planet #6
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by Taki Soma
Cover by Valentine De Landro
Colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics on January 6, 2016

Page 5

The page break takes us from the morning’s lessons to the evening’s dinner. The layout patterns the panels on top of each other like a scrapbook, creating a feeling of nostalgic memory. To be certain, these next four pages are probably golden moments tinged with regret for their briefness to all four Maki family members.

Bitch Planet #6 pg 5Cell 1 is an establishing frame of outside the house. The dark blues in the coloring establish evening. The point-of-view is average enough to be objective but angled and distanced just enough to suggest a possible watching eye at night, perhaps a drone camera. This possibility is cemented by Makoto in the final panel.

Cell 2 re-establishes inside the house at the dinner table. The wideness of the panel allows all the family members to comfortably fit, though interestingly the blocking of characters has Meiko across the table from the other three, suggesting a kind of separateness or antagonism. Mirai does antagonize her older sister by teasing that Meiko got a text from a boy. Meiko yells at her to shut up, as sisters do in these situations. The artwork hanging on the right stands out for its coloring, not blending with the natural blues and greens. The gold does match Yumi’s shirt, but the orange seems to warn of impending hazard. Being on the right side, which often represents the future, it suggests a visual foreshadowing, a danger that maybe only Meiko will clearly see, since she’s on the side of the table facing it.

Cell 3‘s framing highlights a reveal in Meiko and Makoto’s relationship. Meiko rebuts her sister by saying that their father gets copies of her texts, so he already knows. But Makoto says that he doesn’t read them. In this, he’s being a non-compliant father. His ability to read her texts is supposed to be a way to monitor her behavior. This is akin to parents demanding the passwords of their children’s social media accounts. Mack chooses instead to trust Meiko to tell him anything he needs to know, as he explains in cell 4 before changing the subject to the after-dinner work to be done. Meiko is surprised by his hands-off philosophy. This bit of relationship-building enables Meiko’s actions later, when she acts entirely without the approval of her parents, taking matters into her control. Because Makoto trusts her, she can trust herself.

Though Mack may regret his philosophy in hindsight.

Cell 5 begins a transition to the next page. Makoto instructs Mirai to clean up the table and then work on music with Yumi. Mirai whines a protest to show her immaturity. This reinforces Meiko’s later decision to protect Mirai by sacrificing herself. Cell 6 depicts only Meiko and Mack once again, when he asks her to close the blinds. The implication is that people might be watching, and they are about to do something that should not be witnessed by unsympathetic eyes. Meiko, rather than offer the kind of protest seen from Mirai, enthusiastically states, “On it!” in cell 6.

Page 6

Because of Mirai’s immaturity, she continues her whining protest of violin practice with her mother. Yumi’s explanation enlightens us as well as Mirai, though the reader may understand better than Mirai, engaging dramatic irony as the issue goes on.Bitch Planet #6 pg 6

Cell 1 is vertically oriented to show movement up stairs. Yumi keeps calm in the face of Mirai’s protests, offering reason why Mirai must practice while Meiko need not. Meiko got it out of the way before dinner. In cell 2, in her bedroom, Mirai complains that Meiko is a terrible violinist and should practice more. Her mother lays down a fundamental lesson in response: “You do not get to decide what other people should or should not have to do.” This is likely here to show the bedrock of why Yumi and Mack have become subversives. They believe that the government should decide what anyone should or should not have to do. Though this is most easily seen in the treatment of women in the society, it is also true for men. Mack doesn’t want to be forced into monitoring his daughters’ behavior in text messaging. Cell 3 offers the second part of Yumi’s answer to Mirai’s complaint: Meiko started at an older age. Probably the two sisters started lessons at the same time, when their parents decided to teach STEM to the girls of the community.

Cell 4 is a small inset panel of Yumi clicking closed the door, another instance of the parents ensuring privacy as they discuss their family secrets. In Cell 5, Yumi lays out reason #3, which confirms the implications of the last reason: the music lessons are a cover and the girls need only be good enough to escape suspicion. The diagonal shadows leading into Yumi’s body and the slightly canted angle of the frame create greater tension to this panel, giving it the emotional hotspot for the page. This is the most important thing for Mirai to understand–how good Meiko is in comparison to Mirai is unimportant in so far as to the outside world, the girls are passable. But Mirai’s response in Cell 6 isn’t fully convincing with the pronounced grimace of concession. She’s still young. She doesn’t fully understand the world. It is understandable, but it also makes her and her family vulnerable.

Cell 7 has the two amicably sitting down to practice the much protested sonata. Harmony is restored, but an ironic boy-band poster reveals some closing commentary on the page. A parody of the band One Direction, Mirai has a poster for the band One Way. Their tag line: Our way. These details alone evoke the government’s stance. Perhaps the band is part of governmental propaganda for the pre-teen crowd. Ironically, however, the pictures of the band suggest a homoerotic intimacy among the members. Even the propaganda hides a non-compliance.

And that’s pretty much the point: the music hides the Maki’s non-compliance from the watchful eye of neighbor and Fathers.