Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Cliff Richards
Publisher: DC Comics
See that? Yep, itís issue #3, and itís a guest penciller already. On one hand, this is technically issue #4, with the double-sized OMAC Special being the first issue, so Jesus Saiz has managed about the equivalent of four issues in a row. On the other hand, itís only the third issue, and Richards, Ruckaís fill-in buddy from their run on Wonder Woman, is already picking up Saizís slack. Artistically, itís not a bad swap, since I wasnít overwhelmed with Saiz to begin with, and Richards manages to retain the feel and tone of the book without offering an especially appealing style to outdo Saiz. I still wish DC would find a better and more consistent artist.
Back to business. Fans of this weekís 52 #6 really ought to take a look at this issue, since half the Checkmate cast has infiltrated China and the themes of the Chinaís Great Ten play a very important role. Oh, and there might be a smackdown next issue, so keep those eyes peeled.
The developments this month raise this series a notch from the last issue, largely due to Rucka finally delivering on the political intrigue heís been building. A rather devastating revelation finally gets the ball rolling for Checkmateís influence in world affairs. An international incident is moments away from an outbreak, but itís going to be interesting to see on which side Checkmate will fall. Ethnicity plays an important part in the cast, since many are representatives from their respective nations, like Shen Li Po from China and the Eastern European Count Vertigo. The interactions arenít always subtle, but the tension between the cast is becoming easier to digest as the names and faces become more familiar.
Ah, I donít know. Iím still having trouble embracing the core concept of this series. See, Rucka makes political espionage work in Queen and Country because theyíre all non-powered human beings who absolutely must rely on stealth and persuasive tactics to accomplish their goals. But half of Checkmate is superpowered, and superpowers kind of redefine the stakes of political power. Iím glad that DC is exploring new ground that wasnít already covered by Alan Moore in Watchmen, but itís a big leap to see Mr. Terrific go from traipsing around the world with the JSA, solving problems with his fists, to solving problems with his intellect in the Checkmate intelligence headquarters.
The next issue seems primed to address my concerns and better define where this series is headed. While the premise is still a little shaky, Iím enjoying the dynamics of the large cast and the balance of different plot threads. I just hope they secure a stable artist. Whatís Shawn Martinborough up to?
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