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
In these two pages, Mr. Braxton gets down to business with Makoto. And business is blackmail.
In cell 1, Makoto gets aggressive about finally getting Doug Braxton to discuss the problem with the Polestar plans. But Doug calls for more saki first, though he’s already clearly drunk. Yume’s subtle sarcasm in the response that their out speaks volumes about her character and role in society. Any subversion from women must be heavily veiled, so as not to show up on radar or to be believably denied. The compositional lines all lead to Doug, and the lines and boxes created by the wall and hanging lights build a subtle effect of introducing the trap Doug is setting for Makoto.
Cell 2 shows the breakdown of niceties as Mack gets annoyed at Doug’s utter lack of forthcomingness. Makoto holds his chin in his fist, showing growing boredom with Braxton’s antics. He also turns to sarcasm with his comment about drinking lighter fluid. Meanwhile Doug just looks sad that the saki is gone. This is the brilliance of the character. On the one hand he is so clearly pathetic. He’s just a little kid, practically, an entitled brat. He’s got nothing of his own making, instead just appropriating other people’s culture and opportunities. But he’s as dangerous as an adder. The more he drinks, the more Mack thinks he’s getting the upper hand. But that is not at all the case. When Makoto finally gets Doug to answer his question, the response is dismissive, condescending, and smacking of his signature cultural appropriate: “You’ve shit the bed, Sensei.”
Makoto’s expression shows his rare anger in cell 3, but Braxton chooses to read it slant either out of drunkenness, naivete, or sheer apathy towards Mack’s taken offense. The tension rises as Doug calls this “big deal stuff.” Cell 4 shows Braxton nailing down the subject: the mistakes made on the plans for the Polestar. In cell 5 he stands up, almost accusing Mack of doing it on purpose, finger pointing, lines drawn coming out of his head to suggest rage or yelling, and a yellow background signalling caution to Makoto.
The page takes an emotional turn in cell 6, as Yume re-enters the scene and expresses utter sadness. She says Makoto’s name, but her look is directed at Doug. Pleading. Mack assures her he’s got this, but he’s gone back to looking defeated rather than defiant. He knows he doesn’t have the power here.
To his credit, maybe, Doug doesn’t ignore Yume’s clear distress in cell 1. He immediately back pedals into the mistakes on the plans as result of being overworked. Mack doesn’t buy the nice guy act. In cell 2 he repeats the question of why this had to be discussed here over other ways Braxton might have dealt with it. The two panels create one “widescreen” frame, but the two panels divide between Doug and Makoto, emphasizing the antagonism between them. They are now in a battle of wills and power. Makoto doesn’t know yet what Doug’s play is, but he knows there is one. Meanwhile, Yume stands to the right with her hands over her ears, willing herself not to hear this, panic being barely held back.
Cell 3 frames a close-up of Doug as he quickly exhales, “I’m lonely.” A red background signals the danger of this statement as well as the embarrassment Braxton must feel in stating this. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t have enough charm to properly woo a woman. So he’s turned to blackmail.
The girls come back into the scene in cell 4, where Makoto passive-aggressively says, “I’m sorry?” in order to get some clarity on what Braxton is suggesting, and to give him a chance to back away from it. The frame is divided by the wall hiding the stairs (and the girls) from the adults at the dining table. Mack and Yume are backed by the verdant green curtain; the girls are surrounded in deep blue, a color suggesting the shadow this proposition of Braxton’s is making on their futures. Mirai side-eyes Meiko with apprehension.
Cell 5 frames only the girls, as the dialogue from Braxton reaches them from past the wall. He hasn’t told anyone yet. Mirai becomes visibly alarmed in the panel, while Meiko silently gestures for her to stay quiet. The two girls are mirroring their parents. Meiko taking on Mack’s role in the conflict while Mirai barely contains her panic, just like Yume.
In cell 6, Braxton is up and mid-walk. Maybe he’s paced away from the table and come back. The context isn’t what’s important, although it does present a spot of confusion for the scene. His stride suggests two things. Primarily it shows his shift into active mode. This is his movement into the terms of his deal. The height given to the panel suggests the increase in his power at this moment when he explains how he wouldn’t turn in a family member. However, that active strength is ironically paired with how idiotic he looks in a Taoist robe and athletic socks.
Makoto bares his teeth at Doug in cell 7 when he states firmly that they are not family. The cautionary yellow backgrounds his anger. Braxton’s response in cell 8, his malicious smirk, along with the black background leave bile in the mouth as he says, “…We could be.”
Doug sees the girls as more objects for his cultural appropriation. Ignorantly, he sees his motives as driven by appreciation and adoration. He doesn’t understand he destroys the significance of that which he appropriates. Furthermore, his proposition to Makoto is a thinly veiled arranged marriage, a contemporary version of families matching their children for advantage rather than love. Glorified prostitution.