Saturday, November 06, 2010

Out of the Vault - Walter: Campaign of Terror

I had originally considered doing this as a Halloween entry due to the title and the grotesque nature of the main character, but after rereading the book, I decided to just concentrate on the stripper-witches and save this for after . So...

In 1996, John Arcudi and Doug Mahnke, the creative team behind The Mask, having turned their premiere character over to other (and lesser) creative teams following the success of the Jim Carrey movie, made their final foray into the world of their bizarrely violent main character with the spin-off miniseries, Walter: Campaign of Terror.

Who's Walter, you ask?

Walter was the Mask's arch-enemy, a giant hulking mute brute, super-strong and nigh indestructible. Imagine a cross between Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, only smart enough to figure out how to make a profit off his violent inclinations by becoming a Mafia hit-man. Walter had battled various wearers of the Mask off and on through three previous miniseries, but had ultimately failed to defeat its power completely.

As the miniseries begins, Walter is hiding out in a ratty slum apartment when the cops arrive to arrest him, having been tipped off by the super. Things don't go well for the cops at first...

But it turns out they've brought a freaking tank for support, so Walter surrenders.

Walter is put on trial, represented by a beautiful and ruthless female lawyer named Anna Hamel (her services provided by one of the deep-pocketed Mafia characters around town who still wishes to retain Walter's services). However, even though the evidence against him is circumstantial, the Mayor is desperate to have Walter convicted so he can prove his anti-crime bona fides and get re-elected. The D.A. assures him the case is strong, and the judge is also playing on the Mayor's team. Things look bad for Walter.

Meanwhile, with Walter in jail, there's a hit man vacuum, which is filled by a spooky weasel named Mahlon.

In court, Anna Hamel is banging her head against the wall, trying to get the crooked judge to make any rulings in her favor. Suddenly, a man bursts into the courtroom with an automatic rifle and begins shooting up the place. Everyone dives for cover except Walter, who is not pleased that the man ruins his suit by putting a bullet hole through it. So he breaks the guy's arm, thus saving the lives of the judge and jury.

Next thing you know...

Walter's a hero. Which gives somebody an idea.

Hence the title. But Walter's campaign goes nowhere until he returns to his old apartment to pick up some stuff. While there, he beats up the apartment super who ratted him out in full view of a television camera. However, the camera also filmed the super throwing out a destitute single mother, and the footage is edited to make Walter appear a champion of the oppressed.

Suddenly, Walter is the people's hero, which convinces a desperate mayor to hire Mahlon the hit man to off Walter. Hilarity ensues.

The series was as well executed as a series starring a homicidal maniac could be. It was a satirical look at the sleazy political machines running the city, in which Walter emerged as the hero only because he was at least honest about what he was. It was like Bonfire of the Vanities, only with a Hamlet-style body count.

The art by Doug Mahnke and Keith Williams was excellent, too. It was one of the few comics I've read, though, where there were pages I would have liked to see without any coloring, just because the inking was so dense and detailed that the colors sometimes seemed to detract rather than add.

Dark Horse continued to create Mask projects, but Arcudi and Mahnke were done with the property. Another of Arcudi's Dark Horse projects, Barb Wire, was also made into a film, and more recently, Arcudi has been working on B.P.R.D., a spin-off of Mike Mignola's Hellboy. Meanwhile, Mahnke has been drawing up a storm over at D.C., illustrating the adventures of the Justice League, Superman, and Green Lantern.

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