Or – “Finally, A Break From Iron Man Bashing. I’m EXHAUSTED…”


Usually, I try to space these out with a little more give-and-take, but last weeks comic book haul was rather Marvel-heavy, and for some odd reason, I haven’t been in an “Outsiders and Checkmate on a covert mission” writing mood. Now that I’ve reread it, I remember that this has been a pretty impressive crossover between two of DC’s better-written middle-of-the-road-selling books, but I fear that they’re “preaching to the choir,” that the people who read one book already read the other. The days of complete Marvel Zombies may be mostly over, but there’s a weird low buzz of DC resentment among the casual comics readership (at least the ones that I read on the internet and sell comics to) including people who mock DC’s naming conventions, lament the fact that not all of their characters have bad@$$ names and leather costumes, or think they’re “unrealistic.” My rant about realism in comics takes too long to go into here, so instead, I’m going to address this to those of you among the loyal Spoilerites and casual viewers: HERE is a DC book (technically TWO) that you might want to check out.

Previously, in Check/Out: The Outsiders went underground after a mission to break Black Lightning out of prison went horribly awry. They overturned at least one government, were accidentally at the scene of a nuclear detonation by Doctor Sivana, and basically stepped on enough toes to get the attention of Checkmate (which is like CM1.jpgSHIELD, only it has a structure that might actually WORK for more than ten minutes in the real world.) The White King (Mr. Terrific of the JSA) and the Black Queen (Sasha Bordeaux, former bodyguard and partner of the Batman) of Checkmate then set out to capture the Outsiders, using varying methods, and capture all but Nightwing. Knowing that he’d come to THEM, Terrific and Sasha waited near their baited trap, and sure enough, the former Boy Wonder came through. Unfortunately, his plan involved breaking Grace out first, and the two Outsiders managed to raise the Checkmate repair budget by 25% in no time. The Black Queen stopped their rampage, and offered a deal: work for Checkmate, and don’t go to prison forever. Given their lack of options, the Outsiders agreed, but as soon as the mission began, it was a clusterschmozz, as the attack is meant to ascertain what’s going on at Oolong Island, Egg Fu’s former nest of vipers. Worse yet, the mad scientists of Oolong have a “security system” consisting of a giant aquatic monster who tries to destroy the Outsiders’ ship, The Pequod, before the team even reaches the island! Outsiders’ powerhouse Grace climbs up to engage the beast, but has to call for backup, in the form of her girlfriend Thunder…


The ladies make quick work of the creature, knocking it clear of the ship, where Thunder increases her mass to several tons, and smashes the thing to the bottom of the bay like it was fired from a cannon. Once she is retrieved, the combined Checkmate/Outsiders lands in a deserted chunk of jungle, and breaks into teams: Nightwing and Black Queen will use their Batman-training to infiltrate the compound, along with Mademoiselle Marie, Black Queen’s knight. The exfiltration (whatever that is) squad is Katana, Metamorpho and a chagrined-to-be-left-behind Count Vertigo, who tries to protest that his White Queen (Amanda Waller) insisted that he “take care of” Captain Boomerang. And, yes, it probably does mean what we think it means. “White Queen isn’t here,” Sasha responds, and goes over her support team: Grace, Thunder, Fire, Captain Boomerang and Thomas Jagger. When Boomerang complains, Black Queen tells him he can just block bullets with his body…


“…you’re with us.” Count Vertigo is obviously very bothered, and Metamorpho misreads him, saying “I’m sure they’ll all come back safe.” “That’s what I’m afraid of,” mutters the count, and sneaks off to contact Waller. Boomer is, of course, referring to the events near the end of 52, but also to earlier issues of Checkmate, where Waller has covertly reactivated her old Suicide Squad and is using them to further her own (all-American) goals. Amanda is angry, as usual, and her bishop, King Faraday, accusatorily reminds Vertigo that his job was to babysit Boomerang and keep him from tipping Sasha to Amanda’s extracurriculars…


Suddenly, I wonder WHERE Amanda’s Suicide Squad IS at this moment, and I have a sneaking suspicion we’re going to find out. Boomerang complains as they walk through the jungle about how dense it is, and the highly-professional Mlle. Marie snaps that Nightwing’s people have no ‘noise discipline.’ Sasha responds with, “Could be worse… Stretch-pants here could be making puns.” Nightwing quickly responds, “I don’t DO that anymore.” After a few seconds of silence, Nightwing and Black Queen walk on ahead, and Nightwing quietly says, “I used to make him laugh.” It’s a weird moment, yet it feels perfectly rational for the two of them. “Not in the FIELD. Not in the fight… but after. Later. He used to laugh.”


It’s a weird moment, surely, but it’s touching, as well, sort of like Nightwing has grown up to meet Daddy’s ex and is discussing with her how much they both miss him. As for Boomer and Mlle. Marie, I can’t decide whether or not she’s flirting with him. Part of me says no, but a cynical part of me says that this IS a comic book, after all, and she’s a very attractive woman written by men interacting with a supposedly roguish “hero.” So, the odds are pretty good that her derision comes from that annoying “Moonlighting” thought process, where they fight themselves into bed. Not getting along nearly as well are the exfiltration team, (exfiltration, to answer my earlier question, is the “removal of personnel or units from area under enemy control,” or as you or I would call it, ‘the getaway car.’ Thanks, Wikipedia!) as Count Vertigo seems to be trying to curry favor with the Outsiders…


I can’t recall the count fighting Katana specifically, but he has thrown down with her friends (Batman, Green Arrow, and others) and, if I recall correctly, he was on the OTHER side during the Battle of Metropolis. There is no reason for Katana to like him, and I liked this bit greatly. Meanwhile, the support team has reached their destination, with Tommy Jagger quickly giving out orders. He points Grace and Thunder to the spot where they will wait to play girl-tanks, telling them to ‘get comfortable.’ Grace wraps her arms around Thunder, and playfully asks “HOW comfortable?” Thunder is mortified, but Jagger is ALL business. Initially, it seems like he’s just being a good soldier, but in reality, Thomas harbors some enmity. Not against the ‘criminal’ Outsiders, mind you, but against his OWN fellow royal…


I feel bad for Fire, but I also remember what she did to earn Jagger’s scorn, and sadly, she bought every second of the hell he’s giving her. The infiltration team quickly finds what their looking for (thanks to the infrared capacity of Sasha’s cyborg eye), the entrance to the exhaust system. Nightwing is impressed, asking “what else can you do?” Sasha suddenly clams up, and replies “Nothing I want to talk about.” Mademoiselle Marie pulls out their ace in the hole to break the silence, one of Mr. Terrific’s T-spheres, containing a portion of The Thinker. He is strangely jovial, and when asked to enter the vent, replies “But it’s dark and smells positively FOUL.” When it’s pointed out that he has no sense of smell, his riposte is “I have a vivid imagination.” Thinker is hysterical, giving a little tour of the exhaust tube as he goes, “Interesting… pre-stressed concrete foundations, with a reinforced cold-rolled steel frame. Of course, the COULD have gone with something a little less, oooh, flashy. but, if you’ve got the MONEY, flaunt it, that’s what I always say. Still, black marble would have been gauche, not like that would STOP them. Some of the supervillains I’ve seen, you wouldn’t BELIEVE how they decorate…” Boomer remarks how they said HE had no noise discipline, and Marie quickly shuts Thinker off. The team quickly reaches the datahub, and silently (even Boomerang does good as a pseudo-ninja) takes out the technos there, preparing to link to the system and transmit back to Checkmate. But when they begin their upload…


Mr. Terrific is forced to shut down all communications in order to stop the mad scientists of Oolong from taking over Checkmate’s systems, but that leaves the team out in the cold. Jessica is horrified, realizing that they’ve just abandoned them, but Terrific tries to calm her. “Them or us. It’ll… it’ll be all right, we’ll get them back…”


Can the four of them confront the Four Horsemen of Apokalips? Where’s Black Adam when you really need him? This is getting worse by the second, folks. How can three acrobats and one kid with limited superhuman speed face down four creatures that gave the Black Marvel a hard time? I sure hope that Sasha’s ‘things I don’t want to talk about’ include some sort of ability to override the programming of these cyborgs.

Greg Rucka and Judd Winick REALLY know how to ratchet up the tension, even giving us the false sense of security with the quiet moments. The Sasha/Nightwing ruminations on Batman were kind of neat, in a strange and uncomfortable way, and the character bits with Boomerang/Mlle. Marie and Fire/Jagger were very well done. I’m not sure who’s left on Oolong Island, or what they’re planning, but I almost guarantee that they’re up to no good. As for Joe Bennet & Eddy Barrows art this issue, it was very good, with guest-stars Grace and Metamorpho looking even better than under their regular art team. There’s a lot of goodness going on here, and I don’t think I’m overstating the case when I tell you it’s totally worthy of 4 out of 5 stars. Checkmate is running below a lot of radars, but it’s a quality book with interesting characters. Can’t go wrong there…


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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  1. Mark I.
    May 23, 2007 at 6:03 pm — Reply

    Tell you what, I haven’t even seen this entire book, but I’m genuinely concerned for the poor bastards in that last panel. That’s a good sign.

  2. May 23, 2007 at 7:54 pm — Reply

    It’s always wonderful when I cover Outsiders or Checkmate… None of those pesky comments or feedback. It’s relaxing, in a way… :)

  3. Baal
    May 23, 2007 at 8:47 pm — Reply

    Maybe it’s because you are such a genius that none dare argue with you?

    Nah. Both books pretty much suck and their twelve readers don’t have the Internet…

  4. Alex
    May 23, 2007 at 8:53 pm — Reply

    Wow. They pulled a ‘Fastball Special’. Awesome.

  5. May 23, 2007 at 8:54 pm — Reply

    Maybe it’s because you are such a genius that none dare argue with you?

    Nah. Both books pretty much suck and their twelve readers don’t have the Internet…

    Well, you have a right to your opinion. I never claimed to be a genius, just a guy who knows his comics…

    But you’re ever-so-wrong about the books. If, as you indicate, you don’t read them, that’s fine, but I’d prefer we don’t say something “sucks” without having read the issues in question. The internet has more than enough of that already, and like I said in the Matter-Eater Lad profile, it’s much more fun to try and accentuate the positive, even when not enough people read your book.

  6. May 23, 2007 at 9:01 pm — Reply

    Wow. They pulled a ‘Fastball Special’. Awesome.

    I like the fact that the team’s tanks are both female, and that the male members of the team have subtler powers… It’s a nice reversal on the old standard.

  7. Brent F.
    May 23, 2007 at 9:04 pm — Reply

    Grace and Thunder are one couple I wouldn’t want on my bad side.

  8. Baal
    May 24, 2007 at 10:50 am — Reply

    I read both books and Checkmate month in and month out has been a hard to follow spy soap opera about people I don’t give a rat’s ass about. I’m only sticking around to the end of Checkout and washing my hands of this mess.

    Oh, and did anyone else think Checkmate was giving the Outsiders a chance to work under their umbrella permanantly? I did and then read elsewhere a few days ago that Outsiders is jumping the shark AGAIN with a total Batman revamp. I love me the Winick so I’m not going anywhere but it struck me as odd is all.

  9. May 24, 2007 at 11:11 am — Reply

    If I read the signals right, I believe the the Batman revamp is an attempt to bolster flagging sales. Outsiders has been quite choppy, lately, in terms of art, and there have been some (not entirely unjustified) questions about the overuse of Doctor Sivana, but the last several issues have been steadily improving…

    As for Checkmate, I couldn’t disagree more, but obviously, not every book is everyone’s cup of tea. I can’t get into Moon Knight, for instance, even though I used to read his book, and people tell me it’s revolutionary brands of awesome. The multiple characters and threads are what makes a book like this interesting. The use of old characters in new permutations are part of my enjoyment, but I have to admit that going in knowing and enjoying Fire, Amanda Waller, Mr. Terrific, Tommy Jagger’s father, the old Mademoiselle Marie, and the original run of Checkmate probably helps to keep things straight in my head.

    We’ll agree to disagree, and get back to bashing Iron Man. Boy, that Tony Stark sure does suck, huh?

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