Wasteland #4 (Chapter Two)
“A Safe Place”
Writers – John Ostrander & Del Close
Art/Letters – William Messner-Loebs
Colors – Lovern Kindzierski
Edits – Mike Gold
Today’s piece… is a weird one. It’s the kind of story I want to see more of in the pages of Wasteland. A real “thinker”, which gives you a lot to think about. Let’s get right to it.
Our story opens in an airport terminal. A woman, our protagonist, is bound and gagged… with a gun to her head. The place has been taken over by terrorists who swear they’ll slaughter all of the “political prisoners” of Flight KL753. Before this “Comrade-in-Arms” is able to squeeze the trigger, however, the authorities burst in and shoot ’em all down. Our girl, Mary Elizabeth is un-blindfolded, only to discover that she was the only survivor. All of the other passengers have been killed.
We next go inside Mary Elizabeth’s psyche… she is laying in the fetal position, while voices assure her that she’s safe… and attempt to prompt her to return to reality. She ain’t feelin’ it.
Next, still inside Mary Elizabeth, our girl is running down a crooked and crazy hallway… as though she’s being pursued with urgency. Behind one of the doors… are demons! Worth noting the demons beating on the door make a “Doom, Doom, Doom” sound… so, they may very well be related to Doomsday… or Calypso from that old Todd McFarlane Spider-Man story.
From here, we join Mary Elizabeth in a Psychologist’s office (or, maybe he’s a Psychiatrist… I didn’t see his degree). He’s doing most of the talking… which, isn’t the way I learned to counsel… but, whattayagonnado? He, naturally, suggests that all of her issues stem from sexual problems. Again, not exactly outta the ol’ Psyche texts… but, that’s all most people think Psychologists say. Mary Elizabeth opens her maw, and… uh, a great big tentacle-tongue emerges from her gob. The Doc opens his, as though to, uh… “receive” it? This is actually quite foul.
Now, we’re back inside Mary Elizabeth… and we get the exact same page as the earlier “fetal position” scene.
In the “real world” (I think), Mary Elizabeth leaves Munoz Hall… going to assume we’re on (or near) a college campus? So, this likely a flashback.
It’s late in the evening, and Mary Elizabeth heads toward her car. She begins to panic… feeling as though she’s being chased. She runs toward the safety of her car… only to be caught by those same Demons.
Our story wraps up back… inside Mary Elizabeth. Those same voices attempt to, again, assure her that she’s safe… and prompt her to return. Ol’ M.E. has decided the only way to truly be “safe” is to remain catatonic. And so, she never comes back.
I… hmm… both liked this a lot, and kinda hated it. This is very interesting piece.
I think it’s safe to say we’ve got ourselves a PTSD story here… and for the most part, I’d say it was very successful in depicting Mary Elizabeth’s circumstances, plight, and struggle. Giving her subconscious/psyche a visible and (arguably) physical form allowed us insight as to her emotional state. In her own mind, she’s in a defensive (fetal) position… and, we learn that it’s the only place she truly feels safe.
The Demon symbolism is quite apt, and I appreciated the (I assume) flashbacks. Mary Elizabeth survived a terrorist attack… in fact, she appeared to be the sole-survivor. We also get the impression that this wasn’t the first time she was a victim. The hallway scene and the Munoz Hall scene imply that she had suffered at least twice before.
I don’t fully understand the need for the “Shrink” scene. I suppose it got us where we needed to be, if we use our imagination and make a few assumptions regarding the Munoz Hall flashback… but, still… it felt like one of those “weird for the sake of it” scenes. The tentacle-tongue was borderline obscene, and feels like it was only included because they felt the story wasn’t “weird enough” as-is. It also gave the writers the opportunity to depict a Mental Health Pro as a sex-focused Freudian… so, there’s that too.
If I make assumptions based on that scene and that exchange, it very much darkens up what just might’ve happened on Mary Elizabeth’s walk to her car. It might be safe to make that assumption, but, as always… we err on the side of caution.
The ending was pretty sobering. Rather than rejoin the “real world”, where poor Mary Elizabeth has been victimized time and again, she decides to remain in a catatonic state. She has mentally “shut down” due to the trauma she’s experienced… and from her internal dialogue, again, it’s clear that this is a choice she is making. Not to get too far into the weeds, catatonia was (at the time this story was written) sort of it’s own thing… “catatonic depression”. Nowadays, it’s seen as a sorta-kinda co-morbid ailment, that presents in addition to, among other things, post-traumatic stress disorder.
I think perhaps the most interesting bit of this was the implication that catatonia is a choice. As mentioned above, it’s really rather sobering a concept, isn’t it? For all we know, it might be true in some instances. Even if we dismiss things like malingering, or faking… it’s definitely some weird and wild “food for thought”. It’s stories like this, that make you think… and make you want to comb through all the information you’re provided, that make Wasteland a pretty special series. More like this… less like Shakespeare.