Or – “Looks Like This Is THE END!”

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So, three or so years ago, Infinite Crisis supposedly changed everything, and launched a number of new titles that would define the boundaries of the new DC Universe.  Shadowpact would show the magickal side (it was cancelled last month.)  Blue Beetle would show how a newcomer viewed the world of the superhumans (it was cancelled early this week.)  Justice League of America would re-examine the icons of the DCU (it has been pretty regularly awful until recent months, but has yet to be cancelled.)  And Checkmate would give us the adult perspective, the worldview of the DCU, with political maneuverings and various fooferfaw…  until Bruce Jones turned it into ‘Chimera and his Amazing Friends.’

Previously, on Checkmate:  Greg Rucka created a multi-layered world, filled with familiar characters in CM1.jpgunfamiliar roles, including former JLI sexpot Fire, Batman’s ex-bodyguard, the former Negative Woman, Mr. Terrific, old-school Flash villain the Thinker, minor Superman villain the Master Jailer, and more, turning characters whose time had come and gone into interesting and three-dimensional human beings and placing them into a world of gray areas and intrigue.  When he left the book, new writer Bruce Jones (whose work I have liked in the past) chose to introduce a new character, and sideline nearly every recognizable portion of the book in favor of telling the story of a marine who becomes the ultimate fighting machine.  This isn’t a bad story, actually, but if Bruce wanted to write a Chimera miniseries, he shouldn’t have used an established title like Checkmate to launch it.  Nobody loves a ‘Gary Seven,’ thank you very much.  Still, this issue wraps up both Checkmate as a title, the Chimera storyarc, and, to some degree, the pre-Final Crisis DC Universe, and features the welcome return of some old friends to the fold…

We open our tale with Chimera, moments after being temporarily defeated last time, watching a giant three-headed dragon creature carrying away his former wife Chloe.  The sight of his girl starts to return Chimera’s memory, but the creature escapes before he can do anything.  Elsewhere, Checkmate’s Black King gathers the new Global Guardians (consisting of former members of the Dome, the New Guardians, the Jihad, and Justice League Europe) to try and take the monster down.   Irritatingly, as Guardian Jet attacks, the word ‘discipline’ is misspelled three times on the same page.  The creature flies around the globe, turning water to blood, sending plagues and floods and what-have-you upon the denizens of the DCU to prove how eeeevil he is.  The Global Guardians mass their forces, teaming up with Chimera to snatch Chloe from the grasp of the creature (but not before ripping away her top to display her bra and heaving bosoms.)

The fighty-fighty continues, as Guardian Crimson Fox tries to use her pheromones to attract the creature, finding that he’s only partially under her control.  She then flings open her top, screaming “How about these .45’s, Snake-Eyes?” and distracting him from the attack long enough to put the creature down… for a second, anyway.  Chimera steps up, and starts listing the names that the creature has been known by, citing Dagon, Mar, Baal, Chernabog, Ordog, Nergal, Set, Typhon.  The moment seems to go on forever, until the creature retorts.  He bids Chimera please to allow him to introduce himself, declaring that he is a man of wealth and taste, been around for a long, long year, though many a man stole the stage.  Have you guessed his name?  Or, perhaps, are you puzzled by the nature of his game?  “You may simply call me Lucifer,  dear Chimera!”  Oy gevalt…  To combat him, Chimera transforms into a towering winged creature, hefting a flaming sword into the air, and cutting him down with one swipe.  Anticlimactic, much?  Private Adam Sharp transforms back to his regular self, to the thanks of the members of Checkmate and the Global Guardians, taking Chloe into his arms and requesting a weekend past.  As this issue ends, Adam and Chloe walk on the beach while the Black King returns to Checkmate headquarters to assess the situation, only to find… nothing at all wrong.  “It’s like heaven on Earth,” burbles an idiot pawn, as we bring Checkmate to a close.

I have to say, I really didn’t like this issue that much.  Bruce Jones delivered an okay plot, but the issue was bogged down by some cliche dialogue, and some pretty terrible characterization.  I quite disliked the moment when Crimson Fox flashed the embodiment of evil, and the whole “I Am Legion” litany of names was just silly and distracting in the middle of what was meant to be a compelling battle sequence.  Manuel Garcia’s art is pretty good, though, and his take on female characters Gloss, Jet, and Fire is particularly welcome.  Of course, Chimera’s deus ex machina powers and awful gray character design don’t do his work any favors, either.  The wrap-up is one of those moments where you can literally hear the writer saying, “Crap!  Only two pages left!” and the ham-fisted metaphorical imagery in the denoument is inexcusable.  Overall, I’d have to say that I’m upset that this arc killed a book that I really liked, and doubly annoyed at the overt Mary Sue-ism that Chimera represents.  Checkmate #31 earns a disappointed 1 out of 5 stars, but at least it helps me to forget what I’ll miss about this book now that it’s over…

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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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3 Comments

  1. November 23, 2008 at 10:06 pm — Reply

    Glad I bailed on it when Bruce Jones took over.
    That way I’ll have nothing but fond memories of a quality book that breathed life into several underused characters.

  2. hermit
    November 24, 2008 at 5:56 am — Reply

    i think i’m the only one who didn’t like the series from the start, and i usually love rucka’s work. i read the first trade, but it felt almost like work.

    bruce jones is usually a good writer, i guess they can’t win them all

  3. DrStrangeCubicle
    November 24, 2008 at 11:41 am — Reply

    1 star is generous

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