There are some amazing teams in the DC Universe, but few are quite as unique and compelling as Checkmate, and fans can see what the team is all about in DC's Checkmate #1. Writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev are at the helm once again, assembling a one of a kind team that includes Talia, Lois Lane, The Question, Green Arrow, Director Bones, Steve Trevor, The King, and Manhunter, though they are far from the only heroes in the mix. The big issue hits comic stores today, and ahead of the release, we had the chance to speak to Bendis all about what is in store for the new Checkmate, how plans evolved and changed along the way, and more, and you can check out a full preview of the issue starting on the next slide.
First, we asked if anything major changed from that initial pitch to this final version, and some of the larger plans for the DC Universe did have some ripple effects in regard to Checkmate.
"Well, originally, we were headed towards a goal, and that was happening editorially within DC," Bendis said. "They were building towards something of which this was going to be part of that. And then, there was some changing of the guard and other stuff you've written about on your website, and it changes things, but the point and the premise and the reason for doing Leviathan and Checkmate stayed the same, is that this was an unintentionally messy corner of the DC Universe narratively. There's a lot of Cadmus and ARGUS and they all did the same thing and kind of reorganizing all of that into something more manageable where we know, well, here are the good guys and here are the bad guys, and here's what they want, and why now, and all that."
"So, that all stayed the same, but it was like a mixed blessing to have to take the pause and recalibrate, because it allowed us quite a conceit that when we come back to Checkmate, Leviathan has landed in such a surprising way," Bendis said. "They literally have their own country. Like it's farther than just about any other villainous organization the DC Universe has been able to go and in a modern sense. And so, that conceit allows us to bring Checkmate forward in a much more muscular way. I don't know how else to say, just it was so clear what they need to do and how they need to do it, and why it has to be done. And that the Justice League or the Team Titans, like it has to be this group of characters that not only are they willing to get their hands dirty, they're the perfect people to get their hands dirty, because they all know where the line is, at least, most of them do."
During that time Bendis also started working with the Justice League, and you can expect some crossover. "And at the same time, I started taking over Justice League, and there's some crossover between, in the characters, particularly, with Green Arrow, and of course, you're making that for him. And those choices now get to crisscross in a very unique way. So, not only are you going to see Checkmate in Checkmate with me and Alex telling this big story of Checkmate versus Leviathan, but Checkmate's going to start creeping into the Justice League, like we're in the middle of this big cosmic story, but underneath it, comes the spy stuff and what Oliver is doing will become the great question among the members there."
Now, this part delves into some spoilers, so if you haven't read the issue yet you can check out the preview on the next slide.
One of the best scenes in the first issue is a sequence between Lois and a co-worker Allie, and while the conversation starts out pretty typical, there is this underlying tension that starts to boil over as certain things come to light. Lois also has an amazing exchange (or really interrogation if we're honest) of King, and it prompted me to ask if Lois is the most important person in the room.
"She is. Well, I would argue she's the most important person in any room she's in," Bendis said. "As a journalist, you want her listening, you know what I mean? You want her to like... In this scenario, again, Leviathan made things very personal. He killed her dad. That's going to push her past where she goes with her husband. Like when her husband has a good understanding about what truth and justice is and they're partners in it, she's being tested way beyond that, right? Clark doesn't have to be part of that. He's going to be, you see he's coming, but she's being pushed."
"And that allows us to show what happens when you push Lois Lane, and that got very exciting to me. And to the point... Well, I'll tell you that, originally, that scene was in the third issue, and once it came together and we were rearranging things for the new launch, it became that's the first issue scene," Bendis said. "Yeah. So, I'm so happy you found it the same way I did because I think Alex directed it perfectly. It's perfectly acted. Some of the scene, it's just what he does better than anybody."
Lois has a big part to play throughout the series, and things get a shakeup for her yet again in issue #2.
"And on top of this, there's some mystery coming in the new... next, you'll see the cover saying who is dating Lois? Well, it's connected to the Lane family, and it's a big mystery and she's trying to unpack what's going on with Mark Shaw, but then, she stumbles on something that's going on in her family, that her dad may have fought behind for her," Bendis said. "That's going to open up a whole bunch of... I really enjoyed her not having had closure with her father. There's a lot of parental closure going on in comics lately, and that's a lot of wish fulfillment, and I could relate to deeply like, oh, I'm never going to have closure on this, this is just something I'm going to have to deal with."
"And when you don't have closure on something, it becomes, what does this say about me? Not because I'm going internal, but it's a moment of my character and I have to decide who I am. That is what's driving the Lois Lane thing. Yeah, and she's surrounded by mystery, right? She's surrounded by people with secrets, which is very annoying and uncomfortable," Bendis said. "And also, she kind of knows she's not supposed to be where she is. Like she has to be there for 10 different reasons, and all of which we can, like arguable, yeah, you should be there, but as a journalist...and it's also for me just a lovely way to keep writing Lois and Clark. Because I love being on that book and I got to stay longer than I was hoping to, but you never want to not write them, they're the best. Who doesn't want to hang around with Clark and Lois Lane all day? It got me through the pandemic."
You can find out more about Checkmate on the next slide, and Checkmate #1 is in comic stores now.
What did you think of the issue? Let us know in the comments and as always you can talk all things DC with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!