Checkmate #3 review

After being blinded by some extremely charming Green Arrow/Question content last issue, I realized this time around that I forgot to ask one very important question:

No really, who is Daemon Rose? We didn’t see anything about that last issue. Like, seriously, the name Daemon Rose is absent for the entire thing. Not one mention. I checked. This would be fine, if the first AND second issues didn’t both imply that his identity would be revealed within. Hell, we got more insight to the character in Justice League #64 than we have so far in three issues of this. But Cam, I hear you thinking, why bring this up here? Do we get answers this issue? Some grand revelation? Do we even just see more of the Daemon Rose?

Not really. Let’s jump in!

Pawn to Leviathan

Brian Michael Bendis spends a large amount of time this issue with Leviathan themselves, and I’m not sure how to feel about it. On the one hand, it’s cool to see the big bads banter and bicker. On the other, the peek behind the curtain isn’t necessarily used to give the audience a look at the actual plans of the organization or its leader. We see the group talk about beating Checkmate, sure, and there’s some implications at the end of the issue that are going to need some MASSIVE answers next issues, but it feels like Bendis is obsessed with the mystique of writing a mystery rather than actually giving us one.

Author to Rant

Okay, it’s time for a weird little tangent. I want to preface this section with the admission that it is entirely possible I could be wrong here. I might have missed something in my multiple reads of these issues, or misinterpreted something, or there might just be information yet to be revealed that completely remedies my problems. Or I could just be plain wrong. That’s always the case.

There’s been something that, since Event Leviathan, has bugged me about this story. Bendis is very attached to Leviathan and their impact on the greater DCU, and that’s fine. It’s more than fine, it’s great! He’s living out a lot of people’s (mine included) dream of getting to write a passion project at one of the biggest comic companies on the planet! That’s awesome! The problem, however, is that it’s a mystery.

When you’re writing a mystery, the absolute number one thing people will tell you is that the audience needs to be in on the investigation too. Put things where readers can find them, clues that will help them figure out the mystery, sometimes before even the characters do. We’re halfway through this mini and I could barely tell you a thing that’s happening, let alone where it’s going to end up. Bendis tries to get around this problem by Lois Lane as kind of an exposition dump, having her explain her thought process and little things she’s noticed, but it feels alienating to the reader. Like somehow we, like the rest of Checkmate, need to be keyed in by Lois as to what’s going on behind the scenes. This approach would be good, except for one small problem.


There hasn’t been a chance for her to figure out things without us seeing, because we’ve seen her just about 100% of the time relevant information could or has been revealed! At this point the story is falling into the pitfall of magic knowledge, with characters knowing things exactly when and how they should whenever the writer needs them to. It’s incredibly frustrating.

Props to Creators

I always feel bad bashing a book outright with no highlights on the good parts, especially when there are good parts, so here’s some stuff I genuinely loved about this issue.

The character work, as per usual, is great. There’s a lot of good chemistry between most of the main cast. I say most because Manhunter feels really out of place on the main team. Not out of place in the sense that she doesn’t belong on the team, but more that the other characters barely acknowledge her, and when they do, it’s usually a quick response to something she just said. Standing in  staunch contrast to her, however, are Green Arrow and the Question.

Seriously, just give me a book of these two. They’re what’s keeping me reading.

These two are absolutely the breakout stars of the book, and I can’t figure out if Bendis knows that or not. There’s a weird determination to keep these two in every issue, yeah, but only in what amounts to a cameo. The focus goes on the growingly incomprehensible Lois Lane subplot and the already incredibly incomprehensible Talia subplot (which gets more convoluted this issue so buckle up!!), and it results in a feeling of frustration, knowing what this book could be if the main plot or any other side characters got the treatment that the two comedic relief guys got.

Alex Maleev continues to dominate this book, his art is absolutely the star of the show when coupled with Dave Stewart’s colors. The two combine to make one of the most visually appealing books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing so far. I don’t know what to say here that I haven’t already said so I’m just going to show it.

It’s good.

Makes the book worth it.

Recommended if…

  • Event Leviathan still has its hooks in you, somehow.
  • You like a pretty comic.
  • Green Arrow and Question. I mean, it’s why I’m reading.


This doesn’t feel like a mini, it feels like the intro to a longer series. I honestly don’t see how this is going to satisfyingly conclude in three more issues. Please prove me wrong, Brian Michael Bendis, who I know is reading this. I wrote this review specifically for you.

Score: 5/10

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