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Comic Book / Checkmate

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A spy organization in The DCU, Checkmate has been the focus of two ongoing series and maintains a presence in the DCU, both comics and film.

Originally known as "the Agency", the organization that would become Checkmate was a driving force in the mid-80s comic Vigilante. After Vigilante ended, the Agency changed its name to Checkmate in Action Comics in 1988 and gained a spin-off title the same year. Checkmate became a subset of the Suicide Squad under the ultimate authority of chessmistress extraordinaire Amanda Waller through her agent, Harry Stein. This volume lasted 33 issues, from 1988 to 1991, and was written by Paul Kupperberg.

Between volumes, Checkmate maintained a background presence throughout the DCU, making their most significant appearance in Greg Rucka's Bruce Wayne: Murderer and Bruce Wayne: Fugitive arcs, which introduced the character of Sasha Bordeaux, who would go on to become the agency's main character for the next decade.

In The OMAC Project by Greg Rucka, during the lead-up to Infinite Crisis, former JLA ally turned evil Maxwell Lord took over Checkmate until Wonder Woman killed him. This led to the events of volume 2 by Rucka and Eric Trautmann. This series saw Checkmate reformed under the United Nations as an Multinational Team with both human and superhuman operatives and a system of checks and balances dependent on the four Kings and Queens (including Sasha and, of course, Amanda Waller) to prevent another Max Lord incident. The series ran for 31 issues, from 2006 to 2008, and was critically acclaimed.

In 2011, Checkmate was taken over again by Max Lord, who was resurrected at the end of Blackest Night, and became a rogue organization. Following Flashpoint, it became the GPA-counterpart to the New 52 O.M.A.C., still run by Max until he got imprisoned in Justice League vs Suicide Squad. Checkmate was subsequently destroyed along with all the other spy organisations at the start of Event Leviathan, but a new incarnation was introduced in Leviathan Dawn, spinning into its own series.

Outside of comics, Checkmate has also appeared in Smallville and the Green Lantern (2011) movie. They were also mentioned in My Adventures with Superman.

Checkmate provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Black Thorn, Sasha Bordeaux, Jessica Midnight, Josephine Tautin and Fire.
  • Anti-Hero: Although this was toned down considerably as the series progressed, for the first story arc of the post-Infinite Crisis series, Checkmate in toto was depicted as violently Type IV antiheroic, with Sasha, Amanda Waller, and Fire in particular depicted as being cold-blooded killers and assassins (for example, in issue 1, Sasha shoots a disarmed terrorist with a terse "Checkmate", Waller shooting an assassin from the Kobra cult to death despite already disabling her, while Fire (depicted as a somewhat light-n-fluffy character in 1980s-vintage Justice League comics) incinerates dozens of men alive. Checkmate's "kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" attitude towards targets is a major source of conflict with superiors early on.
  • Artificial Limbs: Sasha's nanomachines generate a metal arm after her original is amputated by Chang Tzu.
  • Blackmail: Waller discovers that Fire's dad is a war criminal, and uses it to force her to do her bidding.
  • Blood Magic: The Kobra terrorist organization has a sect called "The Bestowed" who use blood magic to weed out potential moles. Shadowpact is able to save the life of an undercover Checkmate agent by fooling the spell into thinking they are reading the blood of a captured Kobra agent.
  • Boxed Crook: Waller attempts to continue running the Suicide Squad, even though her contract as White Queen explicitly prohibits it.
  • Career Versus Man: In her backstory, Josephine Tautin rejected the marriage proposal of her boyfriend Thierry Desmarais because her job as an intelligence officer was more important to her.
  • The Chessmaster: Waller. Taleb Beni Khalid is a more benign example.
  • Dark Secret: Bea's father is a wanted Brazilian war criminal which Waller uses to blackmail her into doing her bidding.
    • Jessica Midnight possesses magical powers which is in violation of Checkmate's Rule of Two that each super-powered or otherwise enhanced member in the “Royal Family” must have an un-powered counterpart in a corresponding position of power. Since there are already two bishops in Checkmate with superpowers (Thinker and August General In Iron), Jessica makes a third. She doesn't use her powers however and begs Bea not to tell Sasha. Bea who has had her own secrets before agrees to this.
  • Death Seeker: In "Rogue Squad", Plastique isn't terribly concerned about the possibility of dying and explicitly joined the Squad out of suicidal depression after her marriage to Captain Atom ended in a messy divorce.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Crimson Fox of the Global Guardians tries to use her pheromone powers to control Azhi Dahaki. When that doesn't work she settles for flashing her boobs at him.
    Crimson Fox: Don't usually bring out the heavy artillery but how 'bout these .45s, snake eyes?
  • Good Is Not Nice / Good Is Not Soft: Both tropes apply in equal measure to different members of the team.
  • Good Running Evil: The legendary Green Lantern, superhero, and idealist Alan Scott was the White King of Checkmate, which though not blatantly evil is decidedly a ruthless and murderous organization of spies that many moral characters like Superman blatantly despise, and tried to gear it towards a more benevolent stance as to not be synonymous with the terrorist organizations it fought against. He even tried to implement harsher penalties against agents who killed recklessly like Sasha Bordeaux and Amanda Waller. Things were going well until Waller got him kicked out of his position.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: One certainly hopes that there's no real-life equivalent.
  • Heroic BSoD: Jewelee suffers a bad one after watching Punch get killed on the mission.
  • I Know What You Fear: Chimera can read people's minds to learn what they fear the most and take the form of that very thing.
  • Landmarking the Hidden Base: The New 52 Max Lord version is based inside Mount Rushmore.
  • Legacy Character: Josephine Tautin is the latest woman to take the name Mademoiselle Marie.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Max Lord and Amanda Waller.
  • The Mole: In "Rogue Squad" Abel Tarrant was spying on the squad on behalf of the Society.
  • Multinational Team: The team includes several Americans, an Israeli, a Frenchwoman, and a Brazilian, among others.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Kobra sends assassins to eliminate Alan Scott and Amanda Waller. By the time Alan warns Amanda, she's shown casually readying a drink for herself after having incapacitated the assassin sent to her.
  • One-Man Army: Josephine Tautin who single-handedly rescues her ex-lover's daughter from terrorists in Bialya.
  • Overt Operative: August General In Iron, who flat-out tells Khalid he's there as a spy.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: See Anti-Hero, above.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: The Burmese power plant is powered by a kid from the Kayin ethnic minority.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: All of the Kings and Queens in Vol. 2, except Amanda Waller.
  • Retired Monster: Fire's dad may look like a harmless old man in a wheelchair, but he used to be the leader of a death squad and raised Fire to be an assassin for Brazil. Waller knows this, and uses it to blackmail Fire into sabotaging a mission.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Jonah McCarthy.
  • Stat-O-Vision: Sasha sees everything like this, as a consequence of her OMAC infection. It causes her to angst a little bit. One reason she's attracted to Mr. Terrific is that his powers prevent her from seeing him this way.
  • Token Flyer: Fire is this for the Black Side while Vertigo is this for the White Side.
  • Tyke Bomb: Fire was raised from an early age to be an assassin.