Checkmate is back! After the events of, well, Event Leviathan, the world is dominated by Mark Shaw, head of the Leviathan terrorist group, and it’s up to the world’s greatest detectives (bar you-know-who and a couple others) to stop him! I really enjoyed Leviathan Rising, and even though the actual event fell apart a bit, I’m hoping Bendis can find his stride again in this book.

Alright, this is usually the part where I say something like “Let’s jump right in!” and post a cropped image of the credits, and move on. I cannot do that for this book. It would be an absolute crime to crop out how amazing the credits page is, because WOW.

Knight to B2

This is seriously one of the best pages I’ve seen in a comic in a while. Something about the use of angles, the play on black and white checkerboard patterns, the use of negative coloration, all of it is beautiful. Alex Maleev absolutely crushed it here, and continues to do so throughout the book. His art, coupled with David Stewart’s colors, gives the book a noir vibe that I think complements the plot perfectly.

The way that they play with light is also really nice. Of course, how that light streams through blinds or glows off of a computer screen isn’t a world-shattering improvement to the issue, but I do appreciate it, and can say I thoroughly enjoy the look of this book.

Bishop Takes Queen

As for the plot itself, I’m a little conflicted. The premise is amazing, don’t get me wrong. With a roster containing Green Arrow, The Question, Lois Lane, and freaking DIRECTOR BONES, I don’t think there was a way for me to be more excited for this book. However, this chapter was kind of… a lot of nothing. I get that we need a little setup to show that stuff has been going on between Talia and Shaw, and that the newly reformed Checkmate is going after Leviathan, but wasn’t the setup Event Leviathan itself? As a result, Checkmate #1 often just felt like filler. The thing I liked most about Leviathan Rising and Event Leviathan was the characters. Brian Michael Bendis’ dialogue, while I know some people find it irritating, is charming to me, for the most part. I always enjoy the little moments between characters, and it’s usually good for a laugh. Unfortunately though, there’s almost none of that present in this book.

Instead, a majority of the issue is devoted to a side story I hope will become relevant soon (Talia and Damian’s prior experience inside Leviathan HQ) and attempts to convince us that King, Bendis’ new mystery character, is cool. There’s almost none of the team, which is a shame in a book literally dedicated to them. In fact, I think the only times a member of Checkmate other than Lois, King, or Steve Trevor (who can apparently “vouch for” King) speaks are contained to one page.

This is the only glimpse of the team dynamic we get in their first issue. It’s not terrible, and you can see a little bit of Bendis having fun peeking through, but I would have liked to see a little more of the team in this team book. Just a personal preference, of course.

That said, I’m intrigued by the classic spy shenanigans setup of “one big bad guy group,” I just wish it wasn’t Leviathan. I think the DCU could benefit from a better villain at this point, to be honest, but I think (well, I hope) there’s enough potential here that Bendis can potentially make Leviathan interesting.

Recommended if…

  • Superspy shenanigans interest you
  • The idea of these characters teaming up sounds as awesome to you as it did to me
  • You liked Event Leviathan

Overall

This book is…. fine? It’s not a very explosive intro for sure, and I think it relies too heavily on the assumption that you will already be hooked. There wasn’t a lot here to grab a first-time reader, and it really felt like Bendis just wanted to write more Event Leviathan. I hope it turns around, because I genuinely think this book could be amazing. But as of right now, I don’t know if I can really recommend this book yet. Maybe give the series another issue or two.

Score: 5/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.