Checkmate #18

by

Or – “How Some People Continue To Get Promoted, I’ll Never Know.”

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Amanda Waller… A study in contrasts. She’s currently in a position of great power and influence with Checkmate, while simultaneously having been sent to prison a few years ago for manipulating her authority. Certainly, she’s one of DC’s most fascinating characters, and possesses great depth and moral ambiguity that’s interesting, but I wonder who thought it was a good idea to install her as White Queen… Probably Lex Luthor or something. Either way, her manipulations have become more desperate over the last few issues, and the existence of her secret Suicide Squad has come to light to the royals on both sides of the board. The Fall of The Wall begins here…

CM1.jpgPreviously, on Checkmate: From the very beginning of Checkmate, Amanda Waller has had cards up her sleeve. On a mission to Santa Prisca, she blackmailed Fire (a former Justice Leaguer, no less!) into murdering Computron to cover her own tracks. Her Suicide Squad cleaned up a mess in Myanmar that was created by Checkmate’s own actions, and when Checkmate and the Outsiders made their incursion into Oolong Island, she left Count Vertigo with instructions to ditch/kill/otherwise dispose of Captain Boomerang Jr, leading to Nightwing, Boomer and The Black Queen being tortured by Egg Fu. Add to that a half-dozen problems that AREN’T caused by Amanda, but still complicate matters (The New God Killer, Spy Smasher, the replacement of the Black King’s Bishop by the August General In Iron, who is certainly a Chinese spy) and things are difficult enough, but they’re about to get worse as Scandal Savage (daughter of Vandal, in mourning after her main squeeze Knockout was murdered last month in Birds of Prey) is about to find out.

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Scandal makes a break for it, but Rick Flag opens fire, riddling her with bullets. Even though they’re facing a 5 foot woman with thirty pounds of lead in her, Flag and the Bronze Tiger cuff her before throwing her in their van and taking off. Unfortunately (and uncharacteristically for the Tiger) they miss an important bit: one of Scandal’s wrist blades was broken by a bullet, and lies in the rainy alley behind them. Meanwhile, at Checkmate’s Metropolis headquarters, Black Queen Sasha Bordeaux meets with a woman who travels in all the same circles but has avoided her until now: Barbara (Oracle) Gordon. Sasha offers her peppermint tea, and Babs asks if it’s a lucky guess or good intelligence? “It’s an apology,” says Sasha, and Barbara replies that it’s a poor one. “You’re right. But it’s the best you’re going to get…” says the Black Queen.

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Sasha provides Oracle with her personal contact information, letting her know that only three other people in the world know how to reach her. “I’m not sure I can imagine a situation where I’d want Checkmate’s help,” says Barbara, and Sasha corrects her gently. “Not Checkmate’s. Mine.” Back in the deserted alleys of the city, two police officers respond to the report of gunshots, finding only a homeless man who rambles on about the girl with “sparkly arms” who got shot down last night.

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In a hidden warehouse, King Faraday (Amanda Waller’s bishop and all-around scuzzwad) realizes that they left evidence behind. He tries to dress down Rick Flag for the oversight, but Flag doesn’t work well under that sort of management. “I’d just unloaded twenty round from a fifty into a girl who MAYBE weighs 110 pounds soaking wet. You’ll cut me some slack if I thought getting the hell OUT of there was my first priority.” Heh. Faraday points out that this isn’t just a chunk of metal, it’s thousands of years old, and could only come from one place: Scandal’s Blades of Lamentation. He instructs Flag to show him the girl, and I’ll tell you this for free: I do NOT… want to EVER cross Scandal.

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After being blackmailed into the Secret Six, Scandal has absolutely no interest in the Suicide Squad, and explains exactly what her laugh will sound like when Faraday is bleeding out on her shoes. Nice… Faraday has the Bronze Tiger knock her out, then reports their “complication” to his boss. Back at Checkmate’s castle in the Alps, the information on the blade has already made it to Mr. Terrific. The Royals discuss whether it’s the same killer who took out Knockout, then wonder if Scandal can even DIE, given her strange parentage. White King’s Bishop, The Thinker, points out that their suppositions seem to posit a connection between all the strange goings-on, and Mr. T dismisses him. The Black King, Talib Beni Khalid, wants to know what they’re going to do..

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Khalid gets ready for his meeting in Tel Aviv, but his knight (Beatriz DaCosta, aka Fire) insists on going with him. “Your wife won’t even know I’m there…” He replies that he’s not visiting his wife, and Bea smiles. “Your mistress, then. I’ll be even more discreet.” Heh. Khalid tells her that she can go, but suddenly, a voice calls out “I shall accompany you, as well.” The August General In Iron clangs his way in, and tells him that a Bishop’s job is to advise, something he can’t do if Khalid excludes him.

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Meanwhile, the Thinker has managed to triangulate and download King Faraday’s cellular phone call (an impressive feat in and of itself) and Sasha and her knight, Mademoiselle Marie are in the field, checking on the warehouse where Faraday and the Suicide Squad were last seen. There’s no reliable infrared reading, so Sasha and Jo sneak in, ninja-style. The warehouse is empty, but suddenly, Sasha hears shots ring out, and rushes to see what’s happened.

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Aaah, dammit, Floyd! I was just starting to think you weren’t an amoral jackass again… Deadshot waits for exfiltration, while Sasha tries to staunch the flow of her knight’s blood, starting CPR and waiting for the EMT’s. Meanwhile, at the castle, Mr Terrific has had enough, and stalks straight to Amanda Waller’s office. Count Vertigo tries to stop him, and Terrific tells him that Mlle. Marie has been shot. “Guess she’s not as good as she thought she was,” replies Vertigo with a smirk. His face quickly changes as the White King shows his temper for the first time in recent memory, SMASHING the door open WITH Count Vertigo’s face… but Waller isn’t there. Mr. Terrific plants a boot in Vertigo’s chest, and tells him to deliver a message to Amanda. “She can hide if she likes… I’m still going to find her.” After a quick check-in with Sasha at the hospital, we see where Khalid and Fire have gone… a clandestine meeting with an old friend. An old friend of BOTH of them…

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Well, alright! It’s about time somebody realized that the big guy probably has more inside intelligence than any other cape alive. After all, J’Onn has dozens of secret identities around the world, and can literally go anywhere, be anyone, AND read minds. He should totally be a royal. With both Amanda and her Squad missing, we cliffhang there, wondering exactly what she’s up to and whether or not she can get out of it.

Events have been building to this since before this Checkmate’s current series even began, but it’s looking like this might be the end for Amanda. Still, she’s been known to land on her feet from even the greatest height… I’m really looking forward to what happens now, and once again Rucka nails both the suspense and spy-thriller elements note-perfectly. I love the fact that August General admits to being a spy, but still insists that he can do his job honorably, and I love Sasha’s moment with Oracle. It’s a strong issue, easily worthy of 3 out of 5 stars, and I recommend Checkmate to anyone who likes the cloak and dagger genre, or anyone who’s looking for a story where black and white aren’t so clear-cut.

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