Here you go–the final installment of the a deeper look at Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine de Landro’s Bitch Planet #4. For previous installments, see Part 1, Part 2. and Part 3. Spoilers for the biggest, baddest ass-kickery and reveals of the issue.
We get a repeat of the final bit of the Duemila intro vid from the last page for emphasis: “…or showmanship.” I can only imagine this emphasis is to foreshadow how Kam and team might win over the populace when they begin to play. They’re not going to be able to compete on quite the same athleticism level as professionally trained teams, but they are going to be able to put on a show like nothing the audience has seen before. We get a taste of just that on the next page.
Kamau tells Whitney to give her the list of prisoners she’s requested for her team. Whitney dislikes her tone. Whitney has a need to maintain the hierarchy of power, and with Kam already leveraging her position to make requests/demands, Whitney wants to maintain whatever true or illusory authority she still has. Kamau flexes her power again when she sees that not all of her requests have been honored and pushes Whitney to honor her choices. Whitney tells the guards to send over two of the missing: Penny and Meiko, both outside of the ideal weight choice for players, one over, one under. A third choice’s name has been X-ed out. Whitney explains that prisoner doesn’t exist, was a glitch in the register. Kam watches Whitney’s face closely when she says this but doesn’t question the explanation.
Penny walks over explaining she doesn’t run, and Kam explains the strategy: “I don’t need you to run. I need you to stop anyone from getting to Meiko.” Then we get the joy of seeing this in action. The play begins, and four women rush to get to Meiko. Penny dwarfs them all, gathering the four in her arms and carrying them away from Meiko. Penny laughs. Kamau comments on Meiko’s running: “Damn. Like a cheetah, that girl.” Whitney questions the strategy: “What happened to one-on-one?” “Penny happened,” Kamau explains. Meiko joyfully scores, yelling, “Suck it, chumps!” while she runs to the goal. Penny and Meiko have joy and pride on their faces. It’s a beautiful moment.
The different strategy, questioned by Whitney, is what is going to give Kamau’s team a chance. If the Bitch Planet team were to attempt to replicate how the men play, they’d have little or no chance. It would be as embarrassing as Kamau first assumed it would be when Whitney approached her with the proposition. They need to play to their own strengths and play as a team. And this is a metaphor for how women might regain power within society–playing a different game than the men and working together to beat them.
Obligatory Shower Scene #2
After practice, the team is in the showers. The mood for the winning team, including Penny and Meiko, is celebratory. Penny exclaims, “Did y’all see my girl here? Like a bullet–pew pew pew pew!” And here I can’t help but notice the word choice connoting Meiko as a weapon. Taken with the earlier issue’s reveal that Meiko designed the ship that Megaton will be played on, I wonder if this isn’t more foreshadowing of how Duemila will parallel the war at large for women’s rights.
Kamau turns on the shower closest to the guard. And as Kam likely planned, the steam gets under the guard’s mask, and she ends up leaving by the end of the page. Meanwhile, we have more Penny and Meiko bonding as they continue to celebrate their win. Two other prisoners look on, seemingly disgusted by the display. Were they on the other team that got beat? Or are they disturbed by Penny’s naked body bear-hugging Meiko, also naked? As we’ve seen before in issue #1, not all women, not even all Bitch Planet prisoners, stand in solidarity. They may have all been convicted of crimes against the patriarchy, but that doesn’t mean they are all on board to fight it.
Again, this is a shower scene that is not sexually objectifying the women depicted. They are naked but not posed in any sexual way. Instead, each stands doing something–fists up declaring victory, high fives, hugs, simply standing watching. This is a strong contrast to the next part of the shower scene. Suddenly the depiction is turned on its head and de Landro gives us the gaze as Kamau goes to the back shower and turns on the water in front of the hole in the wall.
Now there is a voyeuristic gaze on Kam’s body. Her curves are accentuated. In a few panels, her back seems overly arched to push out her breasts. Twice de Landro draws an extra panel to show the hole. There’s no eye seen, yet, but each panel shows the hole in tighter close-up. Someone is watching.
And now we get the closest thing to a true “obligatory shower scene” from the exploitation genre. Kamau is shown full-on sexually. Touching herself, moaning, dripping with water, biting lip. This is performance masturbation–that of movies and late-night television–done for an audience. That audience is us. But it’s also for Tommy Peepers. Once his eye appears, Kamau says, “Gotcha.” This performance has been to catch him. Perhaps us too. We get to experience the gaze and have it be twisted and turned back on us. That’s a pretty keen effect of the different levels of sexualization offered to us by de Landro. Kudos.
Now Kamau springs into action, showing her lineage from the fantastic Pam Grier. She jumps up to grasp just beneath the shower head, pulls it out of the wall, and then uses it to break the tiling of the wall and expose Tommy Peepers. This is some serious Wonder Woman super-powered awesomeness.
Kamau hooks the watching guard, pulls him through the wall, kicks him in the nuts, then puts him in a headlock.
Then she really gets the upper hand. She has used her sexuality, in fact, her sexualization, against the man who objectified her. She has caught him in her trap, and now she pulls from him his name: Rick Weldon. She shows him clearly where he stands. She has intimate details of the three freckles on his penis. Unless he wants to be jailed for perversion, he follows her orders. “It means I own you,” Kam says, which is a pretty marvelous turn–making him the object of her ownership. She instructs him in the story he’ll tell about how the damage here happened, and that he’ll fix it all up and no more looking at the girls.
But that’s all preamble, because what she really wants is a Megaton Team Patrol guard in her pocket. They’re partners now, she says. “First assignment, partner–get this shit cleaned up. Then you’re going to help me find my sister.”
So with that reveal, a few things fall into place. The person Kam was searching for in the register of players was her sister. Perhaps, even, hers was the name that was X-ed out on the team roster Kam had made. But this info also indicates that Kamau is likely the volunteer prisoner from the first issue, and the reason that she volunteered was to find her sister. That’s an incredibly cool reveal.