Monday, August 2, 2021

Review: Checkmate #2

Checkmate #2 came out last week, the second part of the 7 part mini-series putting Leviathan on the map as a DCU threat and re-forming the counter-terrorism Checkmate group. 

I am ready to love this book. I want to love this book! But this issue was just okay. And I crave so much more.

The cover is a brilliant red showing ... someone. Is that Mark Shaw Leviathan? Is it Ollie? Is it Merlyn? Is it Daemon Rose? I don't know. Someone tell me. The cover also says "Who is Daemon Rose" but we learned that in the last issue of Justice League and Rose isn't in this issue at all. So this isn't an auspicious beginning.

The story inside is told in a nonlinear timeline labeled 'weeks ago', '2 weeks ago', and 'now'. But I am having a bit of a hard time following all of these timelines as what is happening in each isn't distinct enough to be obvious. (I am thankful for the bylines so I can try to orient myself.) It also makes me think I need to reread last issue to place that issues timeline into place with this one ... and the Justice League events. Maybe I will scan all the issues at some point and put them in chronological order. There is one turn of events where I thought I was missing a page, never good.

Outside of the way the story is told, not much happens here. We get a reveal about a potential weakness in Mark Shaw. Damian gets put in his place a bit. But otherwise, we sort of tread water a bit. Mysteries from last issue aren't progressed at all. And a lingering Event Leviathan mystery is only tangentially touched on.

One thing not to quibble about is the art. I like Alex Maleev's art and he brings the action here with a number of in close fighting sequences. The colors are brilliant, showing us nighttime scenes, dark scenes of fighting in dimly lit rooms, and brilliant daytime sequences.

Still, I enjoyed the book because I enjoy the overall story. I just want to be floored. On to the details.

So we start out 'weeks ago'. Ally has returned to Leviathan after her meeting with Lois. (I have to look back to see if the Ally/Lois scene was labeled 'weeks ago'. In my mind it was 'now'.)

Ally talks about Lois and the 'Snowman Ticket'. Leviathan didn't know about that phrase and Lois regrets revealing it.

I do love how Shaw bemoans Sam Lane manipulating the playing field from beyond the grave! It is that sort of stuff that irked him enough to shut it all down. 

He doesn't like secrets or cabals or 'spy games'. Excellent.

And then this interesting nugget. Shaw says they have to turn Lois and Superman to the cause. 

Agent Nakamura, a high ranking lieutenant, calls out how obsessed Shaw is with Superman. Shaw can't stop talking about him! 

And Nakamura continues to needle saying maybe it is because Shaw is old and old people have a thing about Superman.

Ouch! Are you talking about me Agent Nakamura??

Shaw says Superman is so powerful that Shaw has to turn him. But seriously, this obsession is a psychological weakness that can probably be exploited. Remember, from the beginning, Shaw has been telling Superman they want the same things. It is a bit of an obsession.

Here was the moment when Shaw teleports Robin away into a school basketball game. In his mind, that is where Damian belongs, in that sort of arena. Nice slap in the face to Robin.

Cut to now.

Lois is at the Sam Lane estate.

Green Arrow and The Question are there as well.

Are they shadowing Lois? Stalking her? Or are they there to protect her? I wasn't sure. I hope they are there to defend her.

She finds a Snowman statue in the boathouse, perhaps the ticket we are all looking for? Is it that obvious? Hmmm.

I did like this side conversation between the Question and Green Arrow. Ollie is convinced Shaw has his followers under a spell. We certainly learned in my deep dive on Shaw that there were nanites imprinted with his personality that overwrote people's minds. I still think he is pumping most of his followers with some juice.

That said, I bet there are zealots who don't need a little boost in fervor.

Amazingly, a Leviathan ship shows up and teleports the entire boathouse, including Lois, away.

The ship has Merlyn on board leading to a nutty volley of arrows between the two sides.

What I do like is that Ollie does land a bomb arrow on this ship's hull so that when it returns, it explodes in Shaw's face. Leviathan is not untouchable. 

But such a great display of power. Our heroes are there to protect Lois? How about we just teleport the whole house away in front of your eyes.

We then cut to two weeks ago. 

Talia is still hanging upside down in a force bubble. But if Robin was removed weeks ago and this is just 2 weeks ago, does that mean Talia has been hanging there that long?

Next, we go from her in a force bubble suspended over a walkway at the bottom of a page to a blood soaked walkway without Talia at the top of the next.

Somehow, she has escaped and killed her captors.

This was were I thought I missed a page. I mean, at least show her leaving the force bubble so I can figure out what could happen next.

A bloody trail leads away.

It leads to a nice fight sequence where Shaw himself fights with Talia.

It is a nicely rendered fight. The coloring is great. Maleev shines here.

Love that last panel.

She becomes such a hellion in the fight that it looks like Shaw is finally going to kill her. It makes me wonder why he hasn't already. Or why he hasn't pumped her full of loyalty like the other followers. 

Maybe she is immune.

Bendis always snuck a 'look up in the sky' reference in his Superman books so I was glad to see that here.

And then Superman shows up.

Remember, this isn't a secret lair. This is Markovia, a sovereign land who has come under Leviathan rule. So is this an incursion.

What I like about this is, in the daylight, you see how Leviathan's costume is a sort of reverse-Superman, blue cape and red outfit. Maybe he is obsessed!

But this is 2 weeks ago! What happened?

I do love Maleev's take on Superman.

So we don't know what happened between Shaw and Superman.

Apparently neither does Lois.

Now in Markovia, Lois is confronted by Shaw. 

So outside of the snowman statue, the verbalization of Shaw's obsession, the start of the Superman interaction, and the Lois confrontation, not much happens. And all of those things were just sort of scratched.

And things I was looking forward to - Daemon Rose, the 'Who is King' mystery, what is that thing Ally gave Lois - weren't in the book at all. 

There is a lot to mull over. And certainly I want to see how all these new threads move forward. But this seemed like a pause. In a 7 issue mini-series, I want a roller coaster.

Overall grade: B-


Martin Gray said...

You’re so much kinder than me. I’d sum this issue up as ‘pants’, even with the art. Bendis should be clearer with the story, the editors should know enough/be confident enough to be more demanding.

Having stuck with the Greg Rucka Lois Lane mini-series and been thoroughly annoyed with myself, I could see myself packing this in after another issue this slapdash in its storytelling; the vibe is very similar.

Anj said...

It's never good when you call something Pants, Mart.

Perhaps I was too kind!

Martin Gray said...

Kindness is good, Kara loves kindness!