Overview

Checkmate #1

Review

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Checkmate #1

Credits

  • Words: Greg Rucka
  • Art: Jesus Saiz
  • Inks: Jesus Saiz
  • Colors: Tanya and Richard Horie
  • Story Title: The Game of Kings
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Apr 26, 2006

Spies and superheroes mix and match in order to maintain a balance of power. All it takes is someone tipping the balance and this new team will put them in check.

With his novels and comic book work, writer Greg Rucka is known best for two things: crafting strong female characters and creating thrilling espionage stories. The new Checkmate plays to both of these strengths while throwing a little superhero action into the mix as well. The result is a potent brew.

One year has passed since the events of The OMAC Project and in that time Amanda (The Wall) Waller has managed to clean up and restructure Checkmate. The new organization, a balance between metas and regular humans, is achieving success in its mandate of maintaining balance between superheroes and supervillains but its future is shadowed in doubt.

As the ‘Black’ side of Checkmate handles an attack on a secret Kobra base they fight the clock as well as Kobra thugs. The UN is voting on Checkmate’s survival and what the covert team finds may give them the leverage to ensure that survival. There are many kinds of "death" and right now the members of Checkmate are facing several of them.

Over the past couple of years, comic book readers have seen DC begin expanding their focus to embrace other genres than the standard superhero fare. Checkmate manages to successfully bridge the gap between superheroes and spy thrillers. Make no mistake, this is Rucka writing, so what readers get is hard espionage that does not shrink from violence.

Despite the presence of metahumans on the team, Rucka chooses to place them in such a way that their powers are used no differently than the talents of a human sniper or bomb expert. These are not people who will fly in and save the day, they are merely weapons experts with unique weapons.

This approach works well, though. For readers who may not have read any espionage thrillers this title is a good way of gradually introducing them. Rucka makes the plot suitably complex for such a genre but he carefully never loses the reader nor delves into the complexities seen in books like Tom Clancy’s Cardinal of the Kremlin or Robert Ludlum’s Osterman Weekend. Additionally, the characters here, both male and female, are intelligent pragmatists who are willing to do the job that must be done…at least for now.

Jesus Saiz returns from The OMAC Project as well to handle the art on Checkmate and this allows for the series to start out clean for new readers and yet retain a seamless feel for those who followed this title from OMAC. Saiz’s work is well suited to catch the more real-world look that this series needs to ground the action.

The DC trappings of familiar heroes, villains, and locations will help new readers connect to this spy thriller while those who already enjoy titles like Rucka’s Queen and Country or authors like Len Deighton, John Le Carre, or Fredrick Forsyth, will find something a little lighter to rest the palate between those other tomes.

Follow the moves on the DC chessboard; attack and enemies may come from any direction. Those who would act, though, had best be aware that Checkmate always ends the game.

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