Or – “How Amanda Got Her Hardcase Groove Back…”


One of our faithful Spoilerites made the assertion last month that Amanda Waller has been painted as pure villain since this series began, that her actions have kept her on the “bad” side of the equation from the get-go. While I can certainly see and concede part of that point, I think it’s important to keep in mind that Sasha Bordeaux tends to be the point of view character of this ensemble, and that Amanda’s actions are being filtered (somewhat) through that prism. The Wall is nothing if not uncompromising, and Amanda wants to protect herself, and by extension America’s, interests. Rather than being a villain, to my mind Amanda represents a particular political mindset: the isolationist.

Previously, on Checkmate: Manipulations abound within Checkmate, an organization ostensibly designed to keep the various powers (both human and superhuman) of the DCU CM1.jpgin check. China has found that supporting the mads of Oolong Island was a bad idea, and now have reversed themselves, going so far as to appoint August General In Iron of the Great Ten as the Black King’s Bishop to Checkmate. Sasha Bordeaux, the Black Queen, has been conducting an illicit affair with Mr. Terrific, the White King. Black King Taleb Beni Khalid has revealed one of his sources within the metahuman community (The Martian Manhunter!) while White Queen Amanda Waller has reactivated her Suicide Squad concept, this time rounding up the various villains of the DCU and sending them off to a mysterious holding facility called “Salvation.” While her enemies align against her, Amanda Waller and her Bishop (King Faraday, he of ‘Danger Trail’ fame) discuss the playing field and the forces in motion… The Black Queen’s knight is recovering from gunshot wounds gained from crossing Deadshot, while Sasha herself is facing a different kind of firing squad, as the U.N. is taking her to task for her recent actions.

Meanwhile, back at Belle Reve, Amanda’s center of power, The Suicide Squad herds some of DC’s worst villains (Mr. Freeze, Killer Croc, Mammoth, Hyena, and others) into a dimensional aperture, both to get them out of her hair and also to cover the evidence of a greater crime: the kidnapping of Scandal Savage, late of the Secret Six. Amanda doesn’t really have any interest in what the other Royals think of her actions, knowing that they’re justified.

Just as we are about to get far too much detail, a fight breaks out, as Scandal breaks free, overpowers Multiplex (four of him, no less!) and puts one of him in a chokehold demanding that they free her, or he dies. Amanda nods. “I’m sure you will. But we’re on a schedule here. And I don’t negotiate.” On her signal, Rick Flag KILLS Multiplex, and orders her through before he puts a slug in her brain as well.


Well, who is this young lady? And most importantly, why isn’t she setting off a million different security alarms? Her mode of dress seems vaguely Chinese, wouldn’t you say? Foreshadowing is an important literary technique… Meanwhile, in New York, Sasha Bordeaux finds that she too has been being watched, and with equally ambiguous intent. The U.N. Ambassador from the United States grills her about Mademoiselle Marie, her knight, and her qualifications. Sasha argues that her knight is one of the best agents anywhere in the world, and tries to stop him from implying that Mlle. Marie’s injuries are her own fault. Which alls goes for naught as Sasha may soon find herself out of a job.

In Metropolis, Sasha’s Bishop, Jessica Midnight, tracks down information on the bullet that shot the Black Queen’s Knight, finding that it’s a relatively rare and high caliber bullet. The ballistics expert points out that both gun and bullet are ill-advised for a sniper gig, and that for ANYONE to make the shot with that weapon they’d have to have the proverbial ‘mad skillz.’ She reports to Sasha, adding that the rifle itself was French, chosen to send a message rather than kill.

My assassin has a first name, it’s D-E-A-D-S-H-O-T… Sasha sends Jessica into the field, warning her to take backup, but Jessica just reminds her what she already knows. “Trautmann’s an ass, Sasha… What happened to Jonah wasn’t your fault.” As Jessica signs off, Josephine (Mademoiselle Marie) wakes up…


Heh. That’s kind of funny, but also kind of not. Back in the Alps, August General In Iron walks the abandoned halls alone, turning a corner and finding a ghostly terracotta statue glowing in the hall before him. “Ghost Fox Killer,” he intones. “My apologies for keeping you waiting.” Foreshadowing! Your cue to quality literature. The mysterious glowy green woman appears, purring “No man KEEPS me. My touch is DEATH. But you, General Fang Zhifu, remain the only one for whom I am willing to wait…”

August General quietly murmurs that he, himself, has a black soul, but she disagrees. “You stand in gray, as ever, torn between duty and honor. Which do you follow now, I wonder?” Before he can respond, her guardian beast growls at the approach of strangers. August General urges her to leave, her presence having certainly tripped at least some alarms. As she leaves, the August General stalks away, seeking the Black King (whom he last issue swore to assist, even if it goes against the orders of his Chinese masters.)

Amanda Waller, for her part, meets with another of her hidden allies… Ambassador Trautmann. He tells her that he won’t be able to finish the job he started firing Sasha without some serious help.

But it is Amanda Waller, of course she has help – the help of blackmail.

Amanda is certain that this surveillance should be more than sufficient to get a change of the leadership in Checkmate (though she’d be right whether her plan works or not, since a failure will get HER position refilled) and Trautmann. While Mr. Terrific tries to figure out who is snatching villains worldwide, the United Nations has a surprise for him…


Well, that’s bad…

In the freightyards of Metropolis, a mysterious drifter waits for a meeting. Thanks to a tip from Detective Chimp (heh) Jessica Midnight and White Queen’s knight Beatriz (Fire) Da Costa are watching as well. Deadshot makes his appearance, ready to dump the murder weapon, only to find that his usual guy isn’t here.

Deadshot immediately knows something else is going on, whipping his wrist magnum out and preparing to shoot. Luckily for his contact (Tom Jagger, agent of Checkmate) a gout of green flame comes out of the sky, forcing Deadshot on the defensive. Fire takes to the air, but Deadshot puts a bullet in a propane tank and blows her out of the sky…


As a wise young Otter once told me, it’s always darkest before it gets pitch black. After last issue’s setup promised “The Fall of the Wall,” I have to characterize this reversal as pretty freakin’ shocking. With Jessica under a literal gun, and the other royals under figurative ones, I suspect that next month won’t be a measured discussion over tea and crumpets.

If you like the intrigue and the turn-by-turn chess game of espionage, then I can’t recommend Checkmate enough… Moreover, the merging of the superheroic and superspy genres is remarkably seamless, made even more impressive by the problems inherent in both. The art by Joe Bennet is excellent, as usual, giving equal life to the mundane (Trautmann) the superhuman (August General, Martian Manhunter, Deadshot) and the sublime (Mademoiselle Marie looks like she just got out of surgery) with equal skill. It’s a well done issue, stretching out the tension from last issue, and showing just how dangerous Amanda Waller can be. I hope that whatever shakes out from this issue keeps Amanda and her Squad in the spotlight, because it’s her evil machinations that make most of the fun this time around, earning 3.5 out of 5 mean-spirited and Machiavellian 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 was thinking the same thing about the Tangent Lantern. With the Tangent people appearing in JLA & Countdown, could this be her without her lantern, which is on Oa? Another jumper or blead through perhaps?

  2. I really wanna like Checkmate, but it’s issues like this that keep me from doing so. Once again, the issue is depicted in black and white. Ghost Fox Killer alludes to darkness in Faraday but only grey in the General. The same guy who one crossover ago, casually stood by and let Sasha be tortured by Egg-Gu. So exiling villains is unquestionable evil, but letting someone be tortured isn’t? Okay…

  3. Bennett is really pouring on the Gene Colan layouts; too bad the inker isn’t picking up on his cues and going for a more stylized rendering along the lines of the Genial One.

  4. Thatguy

    I think Ghost Fox Killer says August General stands in gray partly because there is something between the two. And of course Faraday has some darkness in him, what self respecting spook doesn’t?

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