Or – “After Several Issues Of Torture, It’s Time For A Little TLC…”


That, by the way, is LITERAL, physical torture of one of the main characters, not the colloquial sense of “torture to read the issues.” After the breakneck pace of the Check/Out crossover, it’s time for a little housekeeping. The Black Queen has been through hell, Mr. Terrific is embroiled in a game of political chess, and Fire is still hurting from having her past actions made public. They’re all spotlighted in an issue that lacks combat, but ties up a few loose ends (including some from another book entirely.) In so doing, they’re also going to finally give us the lowdown on how a certain relationship got it’s start in during that pesky “One Year Later” jump… Even though nobody gets punched, there’s still a lot going on here.

CM1.jpgPreviously, on Checkmate: Sasha Bordeaux, the current Black Queen, lead a combined force of Checkmate agents and Outsiders to Oolong Island, fortress home of the sinister Chang Tzu, aka Egg Fu. She, Nightwing and Captain Boomerang Jr. were captured and experimented upon to discover their secrets, including the sadistic removal of her right arm (well ABOVE the point where it was comprised of cyborg implants) and a systematic testing of the OMAC nanites in her system by repeatedly SETTING HER ON FIRE. Having made it out alive, Sasha is home with Checkmate again, but all is not well. With Amanda Waller lurking in the shadows (Boomerang having exposed her secret reactivation of the Suicide Squad) Sasha is forced to deal with much more than just her usual workload. We start the issue with a flashback to twenty-two months ago, as Mr. Terrific was just getting accustomed to his new position as Bishop to the White King. Mr. T is disturbed by the sheer amount of time Ms. Bordeaux spends staring at him. “Ever since Alan introduced us,” sez Terrific, “I’ve been catching you staring at me like you think I’m some sort of freak…” Sasha walks away, muttering, “You’re not the freak here,” but he stops her.


So, wait… Her LEFT eye can’t see him at all? That must make for a weird little parallax optical illusion. This is the first time we’ve seen the moment that launched their odd little relationship (currently on hold due to the fact that they’re on opposite sides of the Checkmate monarchy structure and they don’t want to be seen as consorting) and it’s a pretty cute meet. Jumping back to the present, we find Sasha (arm regrown by the Borg nanoprobes OMAC nanites) in a meeting with the other royals. Shen Li Po, the Black King’s Bishop was called home to China on a “personal matter,” so Mr. Terrific agrees to loan his Bishop to the black side of the board. Sasha Bordeaux makes a big point of avoiding Mr. T’s gaze as they leave the staff meeting, and brings another piece of information to her counterpart’s attention…


Nice to hear that Spy Smasher got the spanking that she deserved from the government after she got her @$$ kicked by Oracle, and if you’ve read the issue (or the review) you may have a good idea who they’re referring to. The Thinker asks if he will have access to something called “Gideon II” while he’s on the black side of the board, and is told that it’s not online yet. That sounds a bit ominous… I’m gonna just write that down for later. As for Black Queen and White King, Mr. Terrific finally corners Sasha and offers to help her get away for a bit (obviously, not for the first time.)


She hesitates, but apparently ultimately acquieses, as the scene cuts away to Nova Scotia, where the Black King’s Knight (Beatriz Da Costa, the former Justice Leaguer called Fire) has been sent to collect Spy Smasher’s refugee. She is met by a kindly old grandmotherly woman, and offers her I.D. “Oh, shush, you. That’s not necessary. You were scanned fifteen ways to Sunday before you got within a half-mile of the house.” Heh. I like this lady, even if her next words are a bit ominous. “One should always know WHO you are, don’t you agree?” She leads Bea down the hall to find her long-lost best friend…


Aww… It’s good to see the girls together again. Makes you sad that we can’t have a Blue and Gold reunion, too, doesn’t it? That’s assuming, of course, you’re even old enough to know what the hell I’m talking about… We flashback again, this time to Portsmouth nineteen months ago, as Mr. Terrific and Sasha consult with a specialist on possible cures for her technological enhancements. Doctor Mid-Nite points out that she’s incredibly healthy, superhumanly so, and that any attempt to remove the OMAC implants would likely spur them to further mutate her in self-defense. Knowing Terrific from their long JSA comradeship, Mid-Nite makes the obvious point that Mr. T seems to be a bit fond of the cyborg queen… Terrific tries to change the subject, but the Doc has some advice for his friend.


Meanwhile, in the same clinic in the Now, Doctor Mid-Nite is astonished to see that her arm is nearly as good as new after being severed, and that Sasha is once again very healthy. He asks his assistant and Mr. T to leave, but Ms. Bordeaux knows where he’s going, and is quite annoyed by it. “I know what you’re going to ask, and the answer is NO. I wasn’t sexually assaulted.” Gaaah! That’s… EWW! I don’t even want to consider if Egg Fu is CAPABLE of that. Brr. Mid-Nite nonetheless points out that though her cyborg implants repaired all physical trauma, she may still need to deal with her emotional damage…


I’ve always enjoyed Terrific and Mid-Nite’s friendship, as both are smarter than the majority of the Justice League COMBINED, and the Doc’s advice does not fall on deaf ears. As Mr. Terrific plans, we return to Canada, where two old friends get used to both being alive again. Ice doesn’t remember much of what happened, avoiding the issue of how and when she died, or even whether she DID. “What I DO remember, I… I’d rather forget. I wasn’t… It’s like it wasn’t me.” Fire totally understands, having done some things she wants to forget herself. Ice is saddened by the deaths of so many of their old JLI friends, and horrified by what Max did with the new Checkmate, pointing out that he wasn’t who they though he was at all. Bea tells her that she’s quitting Checkmate, but Ice doesn’t understand. “I’m not who you thought I was, either. I’ve done AWFUL things, Tora.” When Ice assures her that she’ll undertand, that she DOES know her, Fire blurts out that she’s killed people. Ice isn’t shocked at all, and reminds me why I’ve missed her all these years, saying “You’re my friend. You’re my best friend. I don’t know what you’ve done, but I know you’re a good PERSON…”


After the recent Birds of Prey review, there has been some talk of “sappiness” and “sentimentality,” but I’ve got only this to say about that: there HAS to be a balance. If Batman is going to be an emotionless machine, then somebody has to be allowed to have feelings. And if we’re going to have the “realistic” stories that so many people seem to want, you’re going to have to deal with emotional issues. Sure, you can go overboard, but there’s no reason why Ice (or Mary Marvel, or Shrinking Violet, or any other of the female characters who have been made more “realistic” by darkening them up) shouldn’t be allowed to be a happy, emotional character who loves puppies and unicorns. Those types of characters work in many ways that a brasher character cannot, as a sounding board, or for a contrast with the brash characters (like the Guy Gardner/Ice relationship) or, as we see here, as a calming agent. I’m glad Ice is back, and I’m doubly glad Ice is still gentle and sweet. We flashback again, to the moment where Mr. Terrific and the Black Queen first kissed (it’s a sweet and nigh-impossible to scan moment) before we return to the present and Checkmate’s Castle, where Sasha sees a familiar (but not exactly welcome) face: The August General In Iron. Sasha immediately springs across the room and KNOCKS HIM ON HIS RUSTY @$$ with a huge right cross…


Oh, that’s going to SUCK. Still, more Great Ten is a good thing, if you ask me, as I find most of them to be fascinatingly weird. Sasha returns to her quarters, smashing whatever presents itself, before collapsing in the corner. Her reverie is interrupted by a communique from the Thinker: Mr. Terrific has authorized a 24-hour liberty for her, and he’ll be waiting at the place where they first kissed. She snaps back at the Thinker, “He WISHES. Anything ELSE he wishes?” Thinker says that he only wanted to remind her of something Mr. Terrific shared with her once: There is never enough time. Cut to later that evening…


“…that’s all that really matters.” They resume their relationship, and hopefully take some steps towards making Sasha’s mind as healthy as her newly regenerated body. But the one thing they may have forgotten is that Amanda Waller considers them both to be threats, and if there’s one thing you DON’T want to be in the DC intelligence community, it’s on the Enemies Of Amanda list.


Hey… Wasn’t Mirror Master one of the Rogues who killed Bart Allen? He escaped incarceration in “All-Flash” last week, but apparently somebody has since collared him (literally.) If you’re wondering what that is around his neck, that’s Amanda Waller’s failsafe. If he doesn’t play by her rules, she DETONATES the collar and blows his fool head off. And now he’s gotten her evidence that Black Queen and White King are compromising Checkmate’s security structure.

This was another excellent issue of Checkmate, as Greg Rucka’s plots do a little simmering in preparation for the upcoming Amanda Waller saga. Since there’s a Suicide Squad monthly promised, I think we may know where she’ll end up, but this is the new DCU where nearly anything can happen. It’s good to see Fire and Ice reunited, and even nicer to see Mr. Terrific and Sasha back together. Hopefully, they can both keep their jobs, though if somebody has to be fired, I kinda hope it’s Terrific. He’s already got a book, after all, and their relationship is too good to be wasted. Two tough-talking characters who have little room for sentiment in their lives deserve a little happiness. ‘Course, it’s conflict that makes the world turn… Bennet and Prado turn in an impressive art job here, with multi-level flashbacks that they make clear and distinct from each other with changes of hairstyle and subtle wardrobe changes. It’s a strong issue, even if not very much happens from an action standpoint, and easily earns 3.5 out of 5 stars…



About Author

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.


  1. I agree with the thoughts about Terrific and Midnite’s friendship. They really go well together.
    Seems like this was a good issue, I might have to start picking Checkmate up.

  2. Damn you. You’re supposed to be where I learn about series that I’ve decided to no longer buy. You’re NOT supposed to convince me to reverse my decision. Do me a favor and if there’s ever a Shadowpact or Countdown issue this good, please put a personal warning up front so I don’t have to start vuying those titles again too!

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