Thursday, January 04, 2007

Did White King's Knight Just Come Out? (Checkmate #9, Cover DateFeb. 2007)


Main Heroes: Checkmate, Department of Metahuman Affairs

Main Villains: Kobra


When last we saw our intrepid anti-heroes, a covert Kobra cell had just gone active, killed some racist drug-runners, and was promptly taken out by the Department of Metahuman Affairs. This upset Checkmate because one of the arrestees was actually a deep-undercover Checkmate agent (Pawn #502), and having an undercover agent in jail defeats the purpose. Much tension ensues between Checkmate and DMA over the necessity of the bust. ("They were killing people" v. "Yeah, but only bad people.")

So . . . Sasha Bourdeaux plans a "jail break" wherein the Kobra cell will make a daring escape while they are being transferred, killing six guards in the process. Bourdeaux deputizes the Shadowpact to create illusory guards to be "killed" by Kobra. Amongst those fake corpses is White King's Knight Thomas Jagger. Bourdeaux informs the Shadowpact that she's not done with them yet.

Meanwhile, Mr. Terrific has selected "The Thinker" as his (White King's) Bishop. I don't know anything about the Thinker, except from what I read here -- he appears to be an entirely artificial intelligence that is projected into the form of a human.


Checkmate is absolutely the best comic out there that absolutely no one is talking about -- especially no one who cares about diversity issues in comics -- because Checkmate gets it all absolutely right. All races, all genders, good guys, bad guys (plays hell with my "Characters" chart, since how the heck do you characterize Amanda Waller?) All represented, all full-fledged characters -- not "the woman" or "the Arab" or "the black guy". Even down to the cover (no "male gaze" in this Checkmate/DMA showdown!). I wrote in depth about the diversity success story in this post, and won't re-hash.

I am planning to adopt it as my "Lost Cause" as sales appear to be plummeting.

This week adds two more cards to the diversity pile, though. The Thinker adds that missing Artificial Intelligence diversity element (maybe DC was getting hate mail from Deep Blue.) More interesting though was Thomas Jagger (one of only three "regular white guys"), a regular since the beginning, who appears to "come out" as a stripper hits on the way to the Oblivion Bar, where he has accompanied Jessica Midnight and Josephine Tautin (Black Queen's Knight and Bishop) to recruit Shadowpact.

The door to the Oblivion Bar changes regularly, and for the next few hours it is in the back of a stripclub. Inside, the women are ignored, but a stripper immediately approaches Jagger.

Stripper: Hey there, soldier. . . why don't you make a lap so you can get to know me better.

Jagger: Wouldn't make a difference, I'm afraid. I'm gay.

Of course, it's possible that I'm the last one to know, and Jagger was already a known gay character. It's also possible that Jagger was just using a quick brush-off line to get the stripper to leave him alone so he could work. Also likely is that the whole matter just gets dropped. Checkmate is really more of a "work" title. There is either minimal or no examination of the private lives of the Checkmate agents. A few frames of Mr. Terrific and Sasha Bourdeaux together (are they still together?) a few indications that Waller is blackmailing Fire regarding something from her private life, but otherwise -- are any of these folks married? We don't know. It's not relevant. So, my money is on the issue just hanging there. Or returning to irrelevancy. No one cares if your gay when you're caught in a fire fight with Kobra agents.

Beyond the diversity however, it's a great, morally ambiguous, spy versus spy, counter-terrorist thriller of a book. A worthy successor to the OMAC Project mini, and I can't figure out why it's not more popular -- either mainstream or among the "WFA" crowd.

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