Checkmate #1 Review

Checkmate #1 was a title I was going to pick up because of my compulsion to collect #1 issues of new titles. But, beyond that, I was not expecting to really dig this title. Nor was I expecting to want to collect this title. Tenzil was pretty excited about it so I decided to read it with an open mind. Did Rucka do enough to convince me to add Checkmate to my pull list? Let’s find out.

Creative Team
Writer: Greg Rucka
Penciler & Inker: Jesus Saiz

Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: The issue starts with a scuba attack team coming out of the water outside a military base in Somalia. They kill the outside guards to the military base. The team consists of Checkmate’s Black Queen and both Black Knights. They contact Checkmate to let them know that they are in position.

We then shift to a meeting of the United Nations’ Security Council to vote on making Checkmate a permanently chartered meta-human monitoring force. The new Checkmate has been reorganized under the “Rule of Two.” That rule states that for each super-powered individual there must be an unpowered counterpart in a corresponding position of authority. So, if White King is powered then White Queen must be an unpowered person. The new Checkmate lineup is as follows:

White King: Green Lantern (Alan Scott)
White Queen: Amanda Waller
White King’s Bishop: Mr. Terrific (Michael Holt)
White Queen’s Bishop: King Faraday
White King’s Knight: Thomas Jagger
White Queen’s Knight: Vertigo
Black King: Tales Beni Khalid
Black Queen: Sasha Bordeaux
Black King’s Bishop: Shen Li Po
Black Queen’s Bishop: Jessica Midnight
Black King’s Knight: Fire (Beatriz Dacosta)
Black Queen’s Knight: Jonah McCarthy

Alan Scott and Amanda Waller are present at the meeting for the vote. Alan starts to present all of Checkmate’s success over the past year specifically disrupting Kobra’s (Are you kidding me?) planned cyclosarin attack on Vatican City. Alan is then cut short by Ambassador Shi, the Chinese representative on the Security Council, who tells him that a motion has been made to move the debate into a closed session. He then dismisses Alan and Amanda and tells them to return for the vote.

Amanda and Alan leave and she tells Alan that Durand, the French representative on the Security Council is going to vote against them. Alan thought the opposition would come from Shi since the Chinese are trying to establish their own metahuman program, but Shi has been very friendly. Evidently, Checkmate must get all of the permanent members on the Security Council to vote for them in order to pass. Amanda says that Black Queen and Black Knights are ready for the order to hit Kobra’s base and prove that the cyclosarin came from a French source. That would explain why Durand would vote against Checkmate. Alan calls for the attack on Kobra.

We cut to Somalia, and we have a braaaawwwl! Sasha and Jonah sneak into the base while Fire distracts the guards outside with her pyrotechnics.

We then shift to Mr. Terrific giving Sasha and Jonah support information on the schematics of the Kobra base. Meanwhile, Fire is told to start her attack. Fire begins to fry all the guards outside the base. Sasha and Jonah then come across the Naga leader of this Kobra base. They exchange some gunfire, but ultimately Sasha kills the Naga leader. Unfortunately, Jonah got killed during the gunplay. Sasha then downloads the origins of the source of the Cyclosarin.

We shift back to the U.N. Security Council vote on Checkmate. All of the permanent members of the Security Council vote in favor of permanently instating Checkmate except for China. (Swerve!) Amanda is then contacted by Mr. Terrific that the source for Kobra’s cyclosarin was not French, but Chinese! (Swerve!) Ambassador Shi then announces that Checkmate has one week to cease all operations and disband. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Damn! I was not expecting to like this title at all. I picked it up since it as a #1 issue and it featured my two boys from the JSA: Green Lantern (Alan Scott flavor) and Mr. Terrific. But, Rucka sure proved me wrong. Checkmate #1 was a great issue! I totally did not expect to want to add this title to my pull list, but after reading the first issue, I cannot wait for Checkmate #2.

Greg Rucka does a great job kicking this storyline off right. The pacing was perfect. Not too fast, not to slow. We quickly introduced all the main characters at the start and then eased into some action and then ended with two swerves and the reader is officially hooked! That is a great formula for the first issue of a title.

I think Rucka did a nice job with the dialogue. Rucka immediately has established unique voices for Alan and Amanda. They are the two characters that got fleshed out the most in this issue.

I like the structure of the new Checkmate following the “Rule of Two.” It presents a nice mix of metahuman and regular human characters. I also like the role of Checkmate monitoring meta human activity around the globe. It seems like a natural response to the proliferation of metahumans engaging in various activities around the world. Plus, the structure and objective of this version of Checkmate are enough to differentiate it from S.H.I.E.L.D. so it doesn’t look like a copycat organization.

I like Jesus Saiz’s art. He has a nice style that is easy to follow and makes the comic book enjoyable to read. It isn’t spectacular, but it is quite nice.

The Bad: I have absolutely no complaints at all with the story. It hooked me from the start and got rolling quickly without feeling hurried or rushed.

My only complaints are minor. I think the use of “Kobra” being a painfully obvious play on Cobra was cheesy. I also am not a fan of the Nick Fury look that Alan Scott is sporting with his eye patch. That creates an unnecessary tie with S.H.I.E.L.D. that will only encourage critics to say that Rucka is trying to create a S.H.I.E.L.D. rip-off with this title.

Lastly, one reason why Saiz’s art didn’t get a higher grade from me is the lack of facial expression on the characters. They all seem to carry the same blank look no matter what is going on during the story.

1 Comments

  1. I’m going to put up an entry for Legion, but for Checkmate I’ll just comment here.

    I want this comic to be good. As much of a fan as I am of DC’s Icons, I love their more non-traditional comics just as much. So a spy thriller comic with ties to the fringes of the DC universe and an international flair. This should be a no brainer!

    But it fell flat for me. Not every comic has a stellar first issue, so I’m giving it time, but it starts out on probation.

    I don’t like to criticize art, as I cannot draw very well myself, and I appreciate the amount of skill it requires to do it even passingly well. It just felt flat to me, not helping to immerse me in the comic in teh same way so many others do.

    And the story, while servicable and interesting, was too short. The cliffhanger ending (Checkmate is stillborn) just doesn’t work at all as the end of the first issue. I felt like I just got the first half of the pilot episode. I really felt like i needed more story, not just on a “bang for my buck” level but to keep my interest in the title.

    That being said, there are so many characters I want to see in this comic, as well as the expanding of the DCU’s internationalization effort, and Rucka is a solid writer, so.. I’m certainly still pulling it, and hoping things pick up.

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