Checkmate #5 review

Mark Shaw, leader of the rogue country Leviathan, has teleported the church being used by the new Checkmate group as a base from the US to Thailand. The spymasters, though, manage to escape via a portal to the basement of the Hall of Justice. Upstairs, the Wonder Twins show a new batch of Justice League interns around. Meanwhile, Mark Shaw is sending a Leviathan agent to infiltrate the party of teens…

Leviathan is probably DC’s most consistent series. Most consistently frustrating. Issue after issue we have entertaining banter, interesting characters… and barely any plot progression.

Who is David Bowie tribute act King? Where did Lois Lane’s supposed secret brother come from? They’re just two of the big questions that go unanswered by writer Brian Bendis, yet again, this issue. Robin is as frustrated as I am at still not knowing what King is doing among DC’s supposed best spymasters.

We later learn that he’s the guy who has access to League portal technology. And that’s it.

As for Leo Lane, he fights off a bunch of Leviathan agents, then drives Lois to safety.

That’s a great panel by illustrator Alex Maleev and colourist Dave Stewart. Not so great when it’s taking up two full pages – it’s not pushing the story forward in surprising ways, it’s not showing us something amazing. It’s filling space. Literally spinning wheels.

Also filling space is panel after panel after panel of the Checkmate people – Green Arrow, Manhunter, Talia, Mr Bones, Robin, the Question, Steve Trevor and King – asking each other questions and speculating on what Shaw is up to. Supposedly the smartest spies on the planet, they’re racked by indecision; finally, Manhunter resolves to do something, but, unsurprisingly, doesn’t get to do it by issue’s end.

Mark Shaw, too, fails to impress, wittering away without doing much.

Before this mini-series began, Shaw had supposedly taken over the planet in some form of another. Released everyone’s secrets. But we see no evidence that anything has changed. Zan and Jayna are happily chatting to children, Green Arrow and Superman apart, Leviathan doesn’t seem to be on the Justice League’s radar. This series debuted about a year after it was meant to and reads like its relevancy to the wider DCU has been filleted – just take a look at solicitations and covers, they’ve very little to do with what’s in the issues. It’s as if Bendis and Maleev still have pages to play with, but can’t do whatever the original story was – characters are just treading water. Entertainingly, but this series feels very missable.

But I’d love Bendis to prove me wrong. Next issue may be filled with answers along with action, in a story with consequences. I don’t doubt there’ll be fun character moments, and photo-realistic visuals – I just hope there won’t be more disappointment.

9 thoughts on “Checkmate #5 review

  1. Just FYI, Mark Shaw’s effort to release all the secrets was thwarted at the end of the first mini-series. So his next step was to take over a country/save Metropolis from the Legion of Doom to build his legitimacy and now, it seems, get access to this “heroes’ network.” I can see why you’re frustrated. I go back and forth on this and whether I’m enjoying it or just buying it for the sake of completeness. But it is entertaining and I do think it’s best just to read it and the Justice League as a continuation of Bendis’ Superman/Action runs. Don’t get frustrated by any relevance or connectivity to the larger DCU. If you do that I think you’ll find it more enjoyable. And remember, this is DC. So there is gonna be contradictions and confusing continuity all over the place. It’s been like that for most of the publisher’s history.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Brian! That’s good advice. Sorry about misremembering the end of the Leviathan mini-series, I must be confusing it with Lois releasing all the superhero secrets in Heroes in Crisis.

      I’m probably misremembering that too!

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  2. Just preposterous. And I say that as a fan of Bendis dialog. But he’s losing even fans like me. It’s become just affectation. It isn’t funny, or fun. Maybe that’s the whole point – that he knows everyone knows it’s ridiculous, so he’s just leaning into it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, my review is up.

    I am with you. It feels like this is sort of treading water. And I’m not really impressed with the Checkmate team as they aren’t really acting as a team. I suppose part of that could be that the events are unfolding quickly. But this is a team that has been together for weeks. You’d think that they would be more cohesive. Or have their own plans.

    And yes the dialogue is witty but seems inane at times.

    I don’t know if they can finish this up in a satisfactory way in one more issue. I guess we’ll find out.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have everything crossed that Bendis somehow sticks the landing; my expectation, sadly, is that we’ll have another entertaining, but unfocused issue, with a To Be Continued… Somewhere tag.

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