FW Presents: Checkmate

Siskoid and guest Derek William Crabbe sit down at a chess board and discuss Greg Rucka's run on DC Comics' Checkmate, and how each character represents the chess piece they're name after... WHILE playing a game of chess. With thanks to Fire & Water patron John Ross-Haynes for suggesting we do this coverage. This one's for you, John!

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Theme: "One Night in Bangkok" by Murray Head.

Your move! Head for the comments section!

9 responses to “FW Presents: Checkmate

  1. Interesting show with the game ongoing.

    I was considered a ‘bright kid’ in elementary school and so was taught chess early on in life because ‘smart kids play it’. I get schooled every time I play. I just don’t see the board. It is funny, in the ED I am known as the guy who is always thinking ‘4 steps ahead’ clinically. But chess? Total novice.

    As for Checkmate, I never read any of the prior incarnations but I am looking forward to the upcoming series which is a follow-up to Event Leviathan.

    I will also add that Sister Midnight character played a pretty big role in Rucka’s Lois Lane book from last year. (So did Renee, making this a sort of pet character book for Rucka.) So if intrigued, you could head there for more.

  2. Great premise, but this would have been great if we could have SEEN the game unfolding.

    So Rucka presented an author-favorite protagonist who was emotionally remote, didn’t fit well into an organization but couldn’t LEAVE that organization, had a flat personality and was an amazing hand-to-hand combatant? Great that he really changed it up for this series!

    Personally, I loved the post DC 1YL Checkmate. Why Alan Scott would all of a sudden become involved in political intrigue never made a lick a sense, but so what? The guy can get beat up with a twig, so logic has no place here.

  3. What a fascinating idea for a show. I missed the Rucka Checkmate when it came out originally, but spurred on by the great reviews, bought all the trades. I didn’t get very far into the first one before packing in. I just can’t seem to enjoy Rucka scripts – the way he shows off his research by having everyone talk in acronyms and the way he has to tell us exactly what the tech is and how it works… it just gets in the way. Also, all his females seem to be Claremontwomen. But this was such a fun show, maybe I should try again.

    I used to like chess, but much prefer Battleships and Cruisers. Or Scrabble! I’ll take any King or Queen on!

  4. I was reading the Superman books off the newsstand when Checkmate was introduced. It was an intriguing concept with a slick visual on the knights, but it was also a direct sales only Baxter format book available outside shops mostly via antiquated direct subscription. We had at bare minimum four addresses in two states during the less than three year run of that title. Also, it carried over continuity from Vigilante and went from a John Byrne back door pilot to Kupperburg & Irwin. A hard initial sale with a poor follow through.

    I’m just not a fan of Greg Rucka’s writing (co-sign on Martin’s analysis,) but I tried one of the trades in his run and remained unconvinced. Why would you get rid of the golden ninja suits in favor of bland video game gear? It never made sense to me that a Green Lantern would be co-head of a spy agency, or that the team leader of the JSA could moonlight in the same capacity without it being a huge conflict of interest for both parties. Checkmate would have been a great place for all the never-was low level metahumans to be deployed, basically a not-so-suicidal squad of federales. By getting greedy with somewhat bigger names and the pet characters of an overrated scripter, it felt like pretend no-stakes soapy “espionage.” Robert Kirkman putting New Bloods in kill boxes would have been more my speed.

    I do really like the chess-themed ranking/role structure. Rooks & Bishops & Queens, oh my! As for the game, I’ve never gotten into it. I can certainly see the value of learning a million strategies, but I think that’s more about pattern recognition than pure intelligence. A lot of people are hardwired to observe structure, so as with Siskoid’s chaos-play, you can short circuit them. I imagine the intelligence comes in with the problem solving to overcome the chaos, but there’s still an abiding rule structure that keeps everyone within a box. Real life is a lot more complicated and unbeholden, so it’s a skill but not necessarily an accurate measure of overall ability.

  5. I wasn’t sure how this would work, but I was totally on board when you started of with “One Night in Bangkok.” To be honest, it was a great show. It sounded like two friends catching up over a game of chess. Lots of fun!

    Who knew chess was a contact sport, Siskoid! I would hate to be body-slammed after a game of…. well, anything!

    Well done on the deep dive of Checkmate. My only experience with Checkmate is how cool I thought the Knight looked on the covers but I could never bring myself to buy an issue. Listening to all the storylines you laid out, it does make me want to go back and take a look at this shadowy series.

    Chess was never a favourite game of mine, even though I love board games! I think I was turned off by the smug attitude of the people I would play chess with. As well, this is a game of pure skill and, as a care bear, I like a little luck in my games giving the illusion that anyone can win the game. Let’s have fun everyone! You get a participation trophy. YOU get a participation trophy! Also, I am somewhat turned off by all the literature out there. Meaning that if I really want to play, and play well, I have to do homework and I don’t like games that give me homework.

    Having said all that, this was fun and very enjoyable to listen to. Well done, everyone! Keep up the great work!

    1. Credit where credit is due on the needle drop: There is such a thing as podcasting community chat and when I asked who had some familiarity with chess (as you see, Derek kindly offered to be on the show), it was Michael Bailey who started riffing on One Night in Bangkok. So I had to use it.

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