Friday, January 26, 2007

Checkmate’s Black Magic Ops and True Friendship, No Questions Asked

Hello Fair Readers,
It was a light week for FanBoyWonder’s new releases. Only two new books were among our weekly pics--blissfully light on our wallet and short work to read and review.

Checkmate #10

The Upshot from DC Comics: "Pawn 502" concludes! All spy agencies have special forces. Only Checkmate has Shadowpact — but even magic may not stop a survivor of Luthor's Everyman Project from blowing this op sky-high!

This was a solid issue and while by no means flashy, it demonstrated the true potential of this series when premise and plot are working together in concert.

By its very nature, a cover operative agency operating in the world of super heroes and amazing powers is a tough sell--politics vs. action. But writer Greg Rucka manages to find this balance in issue 10.

As we noted last issue, we liked the inclusion of magicians of Shadowpact into the story. It makes sense that in a world where super strength and power rings, as well as magic and sorcery, these elements should be included in the story--Kobra had his own magician whose job was to ferret out undercover agents so Checkmate needed its own magic counterforce--hence the call to Shadowpact.

On art--Jesus Saiz continues to produce regular and reliable visuals that convey the story quite satisfactorily. However, instead of inking his own pencils as he has in previous issues, Fernando Blanco is brought in on inks.

It took us only a moment to get used to the change and by our second read through we judged Blanco’s inclusion to be an artistic improvement to the series. No slight intended to Saiz, who has consistently cranked out solid art all by himself and on time these many months but we would like to see this artistic collaboration continue.

52 Week 38

The [same] Upshot from DC Comics: The New Year begins with the deadliest day Metropolis has ever seen — and by the end of the month a villain will stand revealed, a hero will fall in the outer reaches of the galaxy…and the reveal of Supernova will deepen his mysteries even further. Plus The Origin of Red Tornado by Waid and Phil Jimenez.

Despite the fairly low key events of this week’s installment, we are starting to sense things proceed forward toward resolution after many many weeks in a plot-neutral, time-stalling holding pattern.

That said, the mad scientists story line continues to hold zero appeal to us. Yet despite an honest attempt and three separate reads of this issue, we’re still not sure what the scientists are supposed to be doing or where they fit into the overall plot and we really don’t much care.

Meanwhile, we have Natasha--the one-time estranged niece of Steel who gave the finger to her uncle and joined Lex Luthor’s team of “Everymen.” She has now realized that Lex is up to no good and is determined to sneak into Luthor’s secret office to get the goods on Lex. She promises her uncle she won’t get caught which, of course, means she might as well be wearing a Star Trek red shirt. Serves the spoiled little brat right.

The real heart of this issue and of the series continues to be Renee Montoya and The Question. As the Question is in the last stages of dying from lung cancer, Renee has risked everything by taking him to the other side of the world and the mysterious mountain village of Nanda Parbat in the hopes the village’s mystical properties can save him.

Defying all logic and at great physical risk to herself, Renee is desperate to save her friend’s life. Fools errand or leap of faith? With her last ounce of strength, they appear to find their destination but it remains to be seen whether or not it will help.


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