Or – “Sasha Bordeaux Looks Just Like My Old Boss…”

cm6.jpgreviewbubble.jpgThere are some comic books you read because they amaze you… Astonishing X-Men, Invincible, Agents of Atlas, 52 and others fall in this category for me. Some books you read because you want to be impressed the way you had been before… My 20 year involvement with Hellblazer has been like that, up and down, but I always open a Constantine issue with a sense of “Wow, I hope this is as good as before!” Then, some books you just kind of… read. You’ll notice a cool plot point, or piece of dialogue, but for any number of different reasons (art or writing that doesn’t quite gel, new artist or writer, or simply because it’s a new title and you don’t know what to expect), you almost forget it’s on your hold list until it arrives, and then you get that special holiday feeling: unwrapping a gift with no idea what to expect. So, did I get socks, or did I get Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas this month?

cm1.jpgWell, it wasn’t socks, but I’m not racing down the streets sticking a bazooka out of a low-rider, either. Checkmate is the one of the books I get excited about when it arrives, but I mean no insult when I say I sometimes forget that I read it. It’s a very satisfying, well-done series, and one of the few spy comics out there, and I never walk away disappointed. But much like a good soap opera, the cast is large and diverse, and each issue so far has (for all intents and purposes) had a whole new cast. That’s a major plus, but it could concievably work against writer Rucka in the future…

This month’s issue starts with an unknown cast of characters, and a meeting in a parking garage, an exchange of money for illegal firearms. Unfortunately, as the dialogue progresses, we realize that one group seems to consist of white supremacists @$$holes, and the other is a multi-ethnic group who fanatically follow of a diabolical Macchiavellian psycho manipulator. No, not Rachel Ray, the menace of Kobra. You gotta be a real bunch of sompin-sompins to make me feel bad for the skinheads, but…

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Say, if they work for Kobra, why are those rattlers? Anyway, the skinheads get killed, and did I mention I hate Kobra? Hate ’em, hate ’em, hate ’em. “Evil cultists” has become such a cliche, and almost nobody uses them well. Rucka is one of the few, however, who give them enough depth to make it worthwhile. Still hate Kobra, though. Meanwhile, back at Checkmate headquarters, the recently installed White King is already making waves with his counterparts.

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I like the use of Mr. Terrific, especially as it cements him as one of the greatest minds in the DCU, but I wonder if he always walks around in his mask and leather jacket. Seems like full costume might be uncomfortable or bulky. Apparently, Mr T has gone ahead and made reparations to the American ambasadors to Checkmate as well as the new president, in an attempt to stay in the good graces of the United States. Ms. Bordeaux, on the other hand, puts more stock in honorable action than political reality. In the middle of their fight, however, Sasha recieves a message from the mysterious “Pawn 502,” appraising her of the events that kicked off this issue. Apparently, one of the five Kobra loonies is just a pseudo-loonie, but of more interest to Sasha is why Kobra needs combat weapons. Also disturbing is the fact that one of the members of the cell went through Lex Luthor’s patented hero-making process and is an actual metahuman…

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Oh, goody. Not only is he a nut, he’s a super-powered nut. To demonstrate, the entire cell attacks what seems to be a local drug ring, shooting up the place, taking their money, but leaving the criminals alive “to tell the world about the strength of Kobra, and their mercy.” I really hate the ideological claptrap that comes with every Kobra story, too. Anyway, after a sucessful raid, our terrorist cell (one of whom is Pawn 502, though we don’t know which) returns to their lair, unknown that they’re being followed. Idiots that they are, they don’t realize until it’s too late, none suspecting the security breach until the agents bust down their door, guns drawn. The Department of Metahuman Affairs takes them all into custody, enraging Black Queen Sasha Bordeaux (who bears an uncanny resemblance to my former boss at WIBW, a woman named Katrina) and crushing Sasha’s secret plan…

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I put that in for the sole purpose of showing how incredibly neat Sasha’s field gear is, but also just ’cause she’s pretty… Anyway, even though the operation has rolled over and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibule, Sasha still intends to go through with the plan: to get Pawn 502 into Kobra and bring them down for good. Which I wholeheartedly support. Because, I may not have mentioned, I hate Kobra. Rucka crafts an interesting story, though I’m not sure if the identity of Pawn 502 is supposed to be a surprise or not. It’s a well paced story, but the plot doesn’t do much for me. Given their weird anarchic nature, I can’t imagine that it’s so very difficult to get into Kobra. These are, after all, the people who throw wave after wave of snake-headed cannon fodder into every single confrontation they’ve ever had. There’s nothing really wrong with this story, but for some reason, I’m just ambivalent about it. The art is good, and the terrorist angle is mighty topical, but this just didn’t click for me. I give it two stars, and chalk it up to “first part of a story” combined with this month’s overabundance of comics that really sing, and come back next month. Maybe I’ll have cake first…

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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