Almost all of my fears have been assuaged. Where Checkmate #1 was a bloated, oddly paced mess of setup and thread-hanging, the sophomore issue of this miniseries is nothing but pure character driven fun. I was absolutely worried that Bendis was going to take this new mini and use it as an outlet for more Event Leviathan plot dump. What we have instead is a writer who is very good at comedic superspy team shenanigans having an absolute blast with comedic superspy team shenanigans, and I’m loving every second of it.

Bishops to Roof

My prayers have been answered. As soon as I saw the cover of Checkmate‘s debut issue, I was screaming to the universe to give me some Question and Green Arrow content, and boy howdy did I get them. Obviously, it’s a far cry from Denny O’Neil’s heavily politically opposed take on the characters, and while I would have liked to see that dynamic back in action, I don’t think this is the book to explore it in. There’s still room for that conflict later should Bendis want to incorporate it as well, so I’m not too pressed about it. What is here is much more akin to an antagonistic friendship, two people who work well together despite some minor ideological differences. They’re also just… I love them.

This is genuinely funny, and it’s not the only time I laughed this issue. I’ve always enjoyed Bendis’ more comedic writing, and I think this book was a fantastic outlet for him. There are so many moments where we get a more comedic take on something that could very well have been steeped in drama and grit, and I could not be more thankful. Perhaps even more impressive is that the impact of the narrative isn’t decreased by the lighter tone. You still feel the pressure to beat Leviathan, or the seriousness of the Talia subplot (which I’ll talk about in a second), and the plot is managing to move at a decent enough pace while letting these characters shine. The book is gorgeous as well. Have I mentioned how much I love Alex Maleev’s art? Because, like, I LOVE Alex Maleev’s art.

Man can draw a fight scene, what more can I say?

Maleev’s style and use of shading in this book is absolutely fantastic for setting the tone of a comic book-y superspy story, and this effect is just amplified by David Stewart’s colors. If I wasn’t already hooked on the vibe of this book from last issue, this one would have absolutely sold me.

Knight to Docks

Talia and Damian’s subplot is… confusing. To say the very least, I have absolutely no idea where any of it is going, ESPESCIALLY  Damian’s half. The opening to Checkmate #2 only served to solidify that. Talia’s half of the B plot, however, seems to be headed towards some kind of answers, provided certain characters start asking the right questions. That’s kind of a problem, though, because it seems like Bendis is going to try and dangle this thread in front of us for the whole mini, something that could work to its detriment, especially since we’re only getting 6 issues. Disaster isn’t spelled yet, but if Bendis isn’t cognizant of the limited time he has to wrap up his big mystery, then we could be in trouble. Unless, of course, Checkmate is just going to be the setup or test run for some kind of Leviathan-related ongoing, but then the problem arises that this mini wouldn’t feel like a mini, but like an unfinished, poorly paced prologue to something else. This is obviously all conjecture, but I could very easily see something like this happening, and I hope that, if it does, it doesn’t impact the quality of this series.

Recommended if…

  • You love hilarious team dynamics.
  • A more comedic take on an espionage thriller interests you.
  • Of course, if you want to continue the story of Event Leviathan.

Overall

This issue was a massive leap in the right direction. Issue 1 had me a little worried this was going to be a slog to get through, but I’m genuinely enjoying myself at this point. I hope Bendis can keep this momentum going forward. This issue is definitely worth it if you’ve been intrigued since issue 1, but if you’re still skeptical on the series as a whole, maybe give it another issue.

Score: 8/10


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