Thursday Comics Hangover: The fantastic voyage from Saga to Bitch Planet

Every comics fan knows Wednesday is new comics day, the glorious time of the week when brand-new comics arrive at shops around the country. Thursday Comics Hangover is a weekly column reviewing some of the new books that I pick up at Phoenix Comics and Games, my friendly neighborhood comic book store.

The new collected volume of Saga, volume five, hit the stands yesterday. I haven't read it yet, but I've already said on multiple occasions that Saga is the best mainstream ongoing comic in the business today, and I don't think volume 5 is going to damage my opinion. (The weird thing about reading collected volumes of monthly comics is that you're likely to hear well in advance if an upcoming volume is going to be especially disappointing.) Phoenix Comics keeps upping their orders of Saga, in both the monthly and the collected editions. They got almost a hundred copies of volume 5 yesterday, and they've already sold a significant portion of their order. The book keeps picking up more and more fans with each passing month; it's deep into "phenomenon" territory now.

The comics industry is always wringing its collective hands, trying to figure out how to get more people to read comics. We're at a point where many of the top ten most successful movies of any given year are superhero films, but Marvel and DC can't seem to turn those movie superhero fans into comic book fans. The Walking Dead comics series sells well, but most comics store employees say that Walking Dead fans tend to stick with the Walking Dead comics. They don't venture into other titles.

This isn't the case, I've been told, with Saga. Turns out, Saga readers also read Sex Criminals and Wicked and the Divine. They branch out and try new comics. Why is that? Damned if I know. Maybe part of it is because Saga is such an expansive comic; it feels like a story that's always opening up to embrace new possibilities, which perhaps encourages readers, in turn, to embrace their own new possibilities. Or maybe that's some mystical hoo-ha BS and there's no good explanation.

In any case, yesterday also saw the release of the fifth issue of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro's Bitch Planet, and, goddamnit, Saga fans had better be picking this series up. Bitch Planet takes a simple premise — a women's prison in space — and simultaneously embraces and refutes all the expectations that come along with the premise. Part of the pleasure of Bitch Planet is that it wallows in about nine pulp traditions at once: it's a crime comic and a prison comic and a sci-fi comic and a woman-on-the-edge comic and more, all blended into one dreamy package. Hell, this issue is a sports comic and I still liked it — speaking as the most sports-phobic person in the world, that's really saying something. And this issue has got a great guest essay by Lindy West in the back. What's not to love? The first collected edition of Bitch Planet arrives in early October; when that happens, you have no excuse for missing out.