‘Who is Daemon Rose?’ screams the cover.
‘Don’t ask me!’ replies the comic.
‘See last week’s Justice League,’ I pipe up.
That’s where Daemon Rose was stated to be Lois Lane’s secret brother. So far as this book is concerned, a guy with a gun appeared in a church tower at the end of last issue, his sights aimed on Lois. We weren’t told he was Daemon Rose, the first we heard of the name was in the last panel box, which asked: ‘Who is the Daemon Rose?’ Then the fella shows up in Justice League and claims to be Lois’s sibling.
But he’s not in this issue. Lois is but we don’t see if she and Daemon Rose met in between issues – she doesn’t get so much as a line. We wouldn’t even know gun guy was Daemon Rose without having read Justice League.
I’m a fan, but I have to ask, what the heck is Brian Michael Bendis, who writes both series, up to? Justice League #63, a couple of months ago, did something similar, promising ‘Black Adam and Naomi ACCUSED’. They weren’t.
I know covers are often created months before the rest of the comic, but is it so hard to make sure the story at least acknowledges the cover? Checkmate and Justice League have different editors, presumably no longer in the same office, but could they not at least meet in a chat box?
Each instalment of serialised fiction should be satisfying in itself, while carrying the story forward. Checkmate #2 fails in this regard. Here’s what we get…
‘Weeks ago’ Leviathan mastermind Mark Shaw was challenged by an agent about his priorities.
‘Now’ Lois Lane, watched over by fellow Checkmate members Green Arrow and the Question, visits her late father’s houseboat in search of something she knows only as ‘the Snowman’s ticket’. The houseboat is teleported away by agents of Leviathan.
Green Arrow gets a shot off that thoroughly upsets the apple art once it returns to Shaw in the former Markovia.
‘Two weeks ago’ Talia al-Ghul escapes imprisonment at Leviathan HQ, murdering a bunch of agents along the way, before fighting Shaw.
In the dark.
OK, the entire scene isn’t black, but talk about wasting space.
Shaw beats Talia with his anti-gravity tech, and Superman shows up.
‘Now’, Shaw confronts the newly arrived Lois, whom he desperately wants on his side, in Markovia, newly rechristened Leviathan. End of comic.
So, a few fun moments, a bit of brutality for those who like that kind of thing, but it all feels like vamping. At the end of the Leviathan mini-series Shaw had brought down the world’s security agencies and covert spy groups. In the ‘now’ of this comic it’s weeks later, but we have no idea how the world has changed, despite claims that it has.
I just don’t know what the stakes are here. Shaw is metaphorically moustache twirling like a pantomime Demon King, keeping his endgame to himself. The good guys – incredibly experienced heroes, half of whom are neither in this issue nor mentioned – are constantly on the back foot.
There’s a useful reminder that Talia is a truly terrible person, a woman who takes pleasure in painfully murdering anyone who slights her – why is she on the prestigious Justice League Totality away team in Infinite Frontier? (See also Vandal Savage, Lex Luthor…)
The art by illustrator Alex Maleev and colourist David Stewart is excellent, the balance between ‘comics’ and ‘real’ very impressive. When the naturalism is punctured by a splash of madness – Superman, say – things get even better. Individual panels are striking. Panel-to-panel fight scenes aren’t Maleev’s forte, though, which may explain all that darkness – I showed only about half the Talia vs Shaw spread. Mind, it does end in a tremendous shot of Shaw levitating Talia into uselessness. And that teleport effect is wonderful.
As for the irrelevant cover, it’s a real headscratcher, with the placement of the display lettering all but obliterating Daemon Rose, and the colouring making the blurb less a question, and more ‘HO DAEMON’!
I enjoyed the first issue of Checkmate, but this one has me nervous for the series… its predecessor, Leviathan, didn’t stick the landing, but I assumed that was the point of this series, deepen the story and provide a killer ending. That looks less likely now.