Graphic Novel/Comics Review

Checkmate: A King's Game

(2007) Greg Rucka and Jesus Saiz, Titan Books, 9.99, trdpbk, 168pp, ISBN 1-84576-436-6

This is a collection of the first seven issues of the title, revived in the wake of the events of the DC Comics' Infinite Crisis. Checkmate is now a body being re-chartered by the United Nations and is jointly led by humans and metahumans (superheroes). The line-up features the Green Lantern, Alan Scott, with Amanda Waller as his 'queen'; she having been removed from the 'ops' side of the organisation (though she still maintains the Suicide Squad as a covert team, unknown to the others in Checkmate); there's also Mr.Terrific from the JSA, King Faraday, Count Vertigo, Sasha Bordeaux and Fire, she of the green flame from the silly version of the JLA.

The first five issues deal with the re-chartering as issues are worked out, on the one hand with a problem in China, where a metahuman research facility has been infiltrated, and on the other with the activities of the terrorist group Kobra, leading to what appears to be an early departure for Alan Scott. The last two issues deal with Waller's use of the Suicide Squad to free a metahuman boy being used as a power source, and this plotline sees the return of Rick Flag. The script is crisp and entertaining, especially where it revolves around the conflicting loyalties to the UN, on the one hand, and the US, on the other, with a healthy dose of 'realism' as security council members continually veto the American President's nomination(s) for the role vacated by Alan Scott. The art is pretty nifty throughout, though the stand-out work is Lee Bermejo and Patricia Mulvihill's covers to the first five issues. There are a number of deaths, mostly of bad guys, but including Sasha's 'knight', Jonah McCarthy. The diplomacy is more convincing than the cloak-and-dagger, and it's hardly believable that metahumans get sent on covert ops, especially when their powers are often attention grabbing, e.g. Fire's green flame. Still, it is a good start all in all and I am content to wait to see how things develop. I remember enjoying the Suicide Squad back in the old days, so it is sort of nice to see them revived too. Waller, of course, has always been a fascinating character, though in the current title she is 'tainted' by her involvement with ex-President Luthor's administration (as though being a murderous bitch weren't enough to 'taint' her).

I would have to give this a guarded recommendation as I feel it could all too easily go downhill but, as they say, so far so good.

Tony Chester

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