Comic Book Review: Checkmate #2

I know I don’t seem like a very devious fellow, and as Matter Eater Lad, I was never a member of the Legion Espionage Squad, but Checkmate is a title I want to work. I don’t need my comics to be realistic, but to have them try to meld with different genres is right up my alley, and this political/espionage/superhero mix is, at least for DC, a breath of fresh air. I want this to work. But is it? Grab a snack (I’m all out of remotes, so I’ll pass) and we’ll see. Creative TeamWriter: Greg RuckaArtist: Jesus SaizArt Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10Story Rating:6 Night Girls out of 10Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10Synopsis:We start this issue in the Checkmate Castle. The White Queen, Amanda Waller, is getting briefed by her Bishop, King Faraday. We get up to speed that Checkmate has 24 hours to live, as a UN vote to charter it failed. Faraday lays out three options for Checkmate’s future. 1. China continues its veto and Checkmate is dissolved, to be reconstituted as an American organization. 2. Allies in the UN get the vote changed. Not likely, as political pressure alone probably won’t do the trick. 3. A covert action to blackmail China, and particularly its Ambassador. And of course, Waller likes, and picks, option 3. Two pages of a Kobra leader promising revenge on its enemies. It is unspoken here, but they mean Checkmate.White King’s Bishop, Mr. Terrific of the JSA, is woken by the White King, Green Lantern Alan Scott, also of the JSA. The White King is upset by the loss of life in the mission, including the fifty Kobra fatalities, and warns his Bishop that he wont’ stand for that. Which is ironic, as Sasha Bordeux, Black Queen, had shared Mr. Terrific’s bed that night, and was privy to the conversation. They talk about the differing philosophies of Checkmate’s members. Alan Scott is still a hero and abhors any loss of like, while Sasha Bordeux is definitely more mission minded. Mr. Terrific says he agrees with Alan Scott, but still feels for Sasha. Jessica Midnight, Black Queen’s Bishop, gets her Queen up to speed before the meeting, and handling a half dozen small issues. As they enter the command center, more of the Black Queen’s staff is handling the removal of a North Korean missile facility, a favor for the Americans, British and the Russians. The Black King warns her that Amanda Waller wants her job, back in the Operations side of Checkmate.The official portion of the meeting concludes with the Checkmate heads, both black and white side, agreeing to go into China to investigate a theft of cyclosarin, and unofficially use this as a fishing expedition to find something to “persuade” China’s UN rep to vote to approve Checkmate’s charter this time. Alan Scott, White King, has a moment afterwards with the Black Queen and her Knight, Fire (from the Giffen era JLA). Alan takes her to task for the casualties, and the whole concept of “acceptable casualties”. Sasha ends the conversation pointing out that what they do in Checkmate is almost never “clean”, that “Checkmate exists to do the dirty work”. The discussion is tabled, as they both have work to do, but it is clear that the White King will bring the issue up again. Amanda Waller is talking with her White Knight, Count Vertigo, telling him he is to go on the Op, even though the White “side of the board” usually does the Political parts of Checkmate’s job. Sasha comes in, and talks Waller into telling her what her plan is, so that Sasha and her force can support the White Knight in his task. The real target is a “Metahuman Experimentation Center” where the Chinese are developing superheroes. Proof of that site would guarantee passage of Checkmate. The White leadership “pieces” make the rounds, getting support, and are watched by agents of Kobra, and we end the issue with the Operation team inserting itself into China, near the Great Wall, starting their “Op”. Comments: The Good: Clever, informed writing, with a lot of interesting plotlines. Well placed exposition, treating this issue like it is someones first. Personal, political, moral, and ethical concerns woven into a fairly clever, fun story line. The dialogue is fun to read, and the character’s voices are fairly unique. Amanda Waller is the force to be reckoned with that she always has been, and Sasha is learning the ropes, which is as it should be. A good blending of our reality, and the DC Universe. The art is quite effective; Jesus Saiz handles facial expressions fairly well. The Bad: I’m still not happy with the pacing. I’d have like to seen part of this issue worked into the last issue’s comic, and part of the action of next issue used as a Cliffhanger for this one. Still, it will work well in a trade format, and there is little, if no, repetition in the exposition that makes each issue stand alone. Still, this is a minor gripe by comparison. Also, the characterizations of both Fire and Mr. Terrific feel a bit off from other places they are used. Still, I’m not a stickler for this kind of thing, so I was able to tell that part of my brain to shush, and let myself enjoy the story. As far as Mr. Terrific, I’ll chalk it up to “love”. Fire is only really being featured here, so that gives Rucka a bit of room to define her as he likes. Still, good enough to stay on the probation list, but not good enough to remove it. I’ll probably make that choice at the end of this arc, but so far Mr. Rucka is building a good case.