Countdown Breakdown #35A column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: John Hays
Checkmate. Checkmate first appeared back in Action Comics #598 in 1988. At the time, I really only remember seeing the one agent and figuring it was just another throwaway idea that would never be used again. I was quite wrong. Checkmate was previously known as The Agency, as seen in Vigilante #36. When Harry Stein was brought in to take over, he overhauled The Agency, renaming it Checkmate.
In a storyline called "The Janus Directive," Checkmate, the Suicide Squad, and Project Atom crossed over with each other in a violent conflict manipulated by Kobra to distract them from his other dealings. The incident cost Checkmate 3/4th of its operatives and its cover.
After the series ended, Checkmate grew its organizational structure to include chess pieces for both colors, black and white. At this time, a storyline in Deathstroke’s title shows Roy Harper working as a triple agent for Checkmate, and Deathstroke working undercover for the CIA against Cheshire.
In the Batman titles, Checkmate invades the Batcave to recruit the Huntress, and later they recruit Sasha Bordeaux after she is framed for the murder of Vesper Fairchild. It is interesting to note that Sasha later develops a relationship with Mr. Terrific after having one with Batman. She obviously goes for the brainy type!
During the OMAC Project, Maxwell Lord is shown to be the Black King, intent on killing all the metahumans on the Earth. This is rather hypocritical, since he himself is a metahuman. Lord kills Blue Beetle and is revealed to be controlling Superman’s mind, setting off a backlash in the superhero community that leads to his death at the hands of Wonder Woman and the dismantling of Checkmate.
Sometime later, Checkmate is reinstituted as a U.N. agency, led by Alan Scott with the help of Mr. Terrific. The new way of doing business is that for every powered member, there must be a non-powered mirror member. Alan Scott is later removed through the actions of Amanda Waller and is replaced with Mr. Terrific.
Kyle Rayner. Kyle Rayner’s had it rough. He first appeared in Green Lantern #48, replacing Hal Jordan as Green Lantern in an effort to lure younger readers. He was working in L.A. as a graphic artist, and just happened to be in the right spot at the right time, getting handed a ring by a Guardian named Ganthet. He then moved to New York, only to have his girlfriend murdered and stuffed in a refrigerator by Major Force. This actually led to the creation of a website all about how women are treated in comics.
Kyle used the ring to create much more imaginative constructs than Hal ever had. Kyle joined the Titans for a while, dating Donna Troy, before joining the JLA. Kyle’s fear, a unique trait among Lanterns, manifested itself physically in the form of a being known as Oblivion. Kyle unknowingly created a group of Green Lanterns from his mind to help him defeat Oblivion.
When Kyle combined the power left in the sun by Hal Jordan when he had died, with the power left from defeating Oblivion, he achieved godlike status as Ion. He was able to do just about anything he wanted, like be in multiple places at the same time. It took its toll on him though, and he eventually released the power, creating new Guardians and re-powering the central power battery in the process. Later, when his gay friend Terry Berg was brutally beaten, Kyle left Earth for a time on a self-imposed exile. When he returned, he found that his girlfriend Jade was seeing someone else, so he lived with his mother for a time.
During Green Lantern: Rebirth, Kyle helped bring Hal Jordan back to life and defeat the evil of Parallax. He was named Torch Bearer by the Guardians and given new assignments within the Corps. In Infinite Crisis, Alex Luthor mentions that Kyle Rayner would have hailed from Earth 8 had the multiverse continued to exist. Also during this time, Jade dies, passing her power on to Kyle, causing him to be Ion once more. This new incarnation is revealed to be a sentient creature similar to Parallax, but the manifestation of courage, not fear. Sinestro captures Kyle, revealing to him that he killed his mother to break his will, and he rips Ion out of Kyle, replacing it with Parallax.
Kyle will seemingly be fine and return to being a Green Lantern, as hinted at in Countdown.