Checkmate!

Created by Paul Kupperberg and Steve Erwin

FIRST APPEARANCE:
The Agency: Vigilante #36 (Dec. 1986). Checkmate: Action Comics #598 (Mar. 1988).

History

Some parts adapted from Who's Who v.2 #7

Checkmate began as a covert action group formed by Harry Stein from its looser-knit predecessor, "The Agency." The Agency was formed by Amanda Waller to serve as a small, quasi-independent branch of Task Force X under the command of Colonel Valentina Vostok (Negative Woman). It performed global operations which were vital to the security of American interests. (Vigilante #36) Vostok later employed two costumed operatives, Vigilante V and Peacemaker. These two were highly unstable personalities who liked to embark on unauthorized operations that led to high-profile exposure of the Agency's secret business. Vostok brought former New York Police Lieutenant Harry Stein into the Agency to oversee their activities. Stein soon replaced Vostok in The Agency's command position.

A typical Checkmate field operative

Stein's field operatives (Knights) were recruited from the best of the armed forces and police forces nationwide. One such Knight, Gary Washington, previously worked with Stein in the NYPD. Checkmate's hierarchy is modeled on the game of chess. There is one Queen, one King, and several Bishops. The Bishops remain behind-the-scenes and supervise the Rooks. The Rooks are field directors who plan missions and supervise the primary field agents, the Knights, and their support staff the Pawns.

The team was originally based in Konig Industries in Shelby Virginia. Checkmate moved their headquarters to an old Norad base in Colorado when Konig was destroyed during the Janus Directive (a 1989 crossover). In this event, a majority of the Knight force were killed. One former Knight, Jacques Reynard, felt betrayed by Checkmate and became the armored assassin called Bishop. After this, Waller was replaced by Sarge Steel.

Later, Roy Harper, Arsenal joined Checkmate for a time. His first known case was undercover against Deathstroke and Cheshire, who ultimately acquired a nuclear weapon from Russia and destroyed the nation of Qurac. Arsenal was aided by Deathstroke, who was also working undercover for the CIA. (Deathstroke #17-20)

The next known King was David Said, who began his own rise to power on a mission for the Queen. Said gave the Batman information about who had framed Bruce Wayne for murder of Vesper Fairchild. He told the Dark Knight that his foe David Cain had been hired by an NSA agent. (Detective Comics #768-771) Bruce Wayne's bodyguard, Sasha Bordeaux, was ultimately the one who was (wrongly) convicted for the murder. She was reportedly killed by another inmate, but in truth, she was recruited by Checkmate's Jessica Midnight, who had in the past recruited other women acquainted with the Dark Knight. (Detective Comics #773) Sasha underwent plastic surgery, was given a new identity and a position in Checkmate. (Detective #773-775)

When David Said became Checkmate's King, he attempted to use the Huntress to discover the Batcave's location and take out Batman. This mission failed, but Batman encouraged Huntress to accept Said's offer to become the new Queen, which she did. (Gotham Knights #37-40) The extent of the Huntress' involvement is unrevealed, but she did later give Batman access to some of Checkmate's files. (#48) The previous Queen went unnamed and was shown being buried just before the Huntress was offered the job. (#38)

Maxwell Lord

Sasha Bordeaux quickly ascended the ranks of Checkmate, becoming the Black Knight for the organization's new Black King: Maxwell Lord.

Lord's beginnings and ascension within Checkmate remain a mystery. He secretly initated several major projects, unbeknownst to his fellow inner circle members: the White King (Ahmed Samsarra), the White Queen (Oksana Verchenko) and the Black Queen (Patricia Grace-Colby). Since the time of his involvement in the Justice League, Max had been secretly amassing information about Earth's metahumans. He harbored a great hatred of them and hoped to eventually eradicate them (ironically, Max is a metahuman himself). More recently, he stole two key pieces of technology. First, he acquired Skeets, Booster Gold's robot sidekick from the 25th century. He implanted Skeets' into the Blue Beetle's goggles, which gave him a ringside seat to key cases. This information presumably helped him next acquire the Batman's Brother MK I (or "Brother Eye") satellite, a semi-autonomous artificial intelligence surveillance system.

Before this, Max himself had cheated death by taking the power of the Kilg%re to become the techno-organic being called Lord Havoc. He hid this fact from everyone, but it enabled him to build on Batman's technology and develop the "OMAC virus" (Observational Meta-human Activity Construct). The virus was introduced into the world's vaccine supplies and activated from the satellite, turning them into energized killing machines. Its effects could quickly be turned on and off, leaving no trace of the OMAC's presence. Max also began manipulating Superman, taking control of his mind and sending Bordeaux to shoot Lois Lane in Umec. (Later, Lois uncovered the truth and confronted Sasha, who confessed. [Adventures of Superman #645-646])

The Blue Beetle eventually discovered Max's plans and tracked Lord to Checkmate's European mountain headquarters. When the Beetle refused to join him, Max murdered him. He ordered Sasha to clean up after this, but she alerted the Batman. Like everyone else in Checkmate, Sasha found Max's methods distatsteful, but she continued to put up a faithful front. (DC Countdown) Max was finally called by his peers who sought to challenge his recent activities. Rather than risk his own death, Max mentally coerced the other Black Knight, Jessica Midnight, to kill the other three "monarchs." He next sent Sasha to Chicago to cleanse the Beetle's home and businesses. Max discovered her duplicity and sent several OMACs to intercept her and Batman. Sasha was capured before she could reveal Max's involvement to Batman, but she did tell him that Checkmate was behind Beetle's death. Batman was saved from death by Superman, and the OMACs disappeared. (OMAC Project #1-3)

In an unexpected turn of events, Max was killed by Wonder Woman when he refused to release Superman from his control. (WW #219) The Brother Eye sensed Max's death and initiated its "survival mode," setting off a series of false alarms over the world. It then created an OMAC agent within the Checkmate compound that began killing all remaining agents. Bordeaux and Knight broke free, but during the melee, Sasha found herself transforming into another kind of OMAC. (#4) She was reborn as a techno-organic being and discovered that Max had grafted her with an experimental form of the OMAC nanotech, which was derived from Brainiac-13 technology acquired by the U.S. Department of Defense and Lexcorp. The regular OMAC virus had been introduced into general vaccine supplies for years. (#5)

Brother Eye activated 1.3 million OMACs, but Sasha kept control over what remained of Checkmate. She broadcast an update to all remaining agents and began working with Batman and Director Bones of the D.E.O. (#6)

Batman led a group of heroes who destroyed Brother Eye in space. The satellite then crashed down in southern Saudi Arabia, where a free-for-all ensued as the world's power players tried to retrieve it. Batman charged Sasha with destroying the Eye and its database. Simultaneously, U.S. President Horne appointed Amanda Waller Black King and charged her with saving the Eye's information.

Waller ordered her new opeartive, Fire, and Jessica Midnight into Saudi Arabia, where they encountered agents from Russia, Isreal and China. But Sasha got the drop on them all. She defied Waller's directive and entered the satellite. The Eye revealed that it had transformed Sahsa, not Max. She was meant to serve as its survival plan, or "Lazarus Protocol." They Eye attempted to take her over, but she detonated a bomb to destroy it. Bordeaux emerged from this, free from the Eye's bionic parts, save for a few patches of skin, and around her eye. (OMAC Project: Infinite Crisis Special)

Checkmate Version 3

After this, Checkmate was reorganized again by the United Nations. It was restructured to pair metas with non-metas in key positions:

White King, Alan Scott White Queen, Amanda Waller Black Queen: Sasha Bordeaux Black King: Col. Taleb Beni Khalid-Isr
White King's Bishop, Michael Holt White Queen's Bishop: King Faraday Black Queen's Bishop: Jessica Midnight Black King's Bishop: Shen Li Po
White King's Knight: Thomas Jagger White Queen's Knight: Werner Vertigo Black Queen's Knight: Jonah McCarthy Black King's Knight: Beatriz DaCosta

The White side was meant to handle administrative and diplomatic tasks, while the Black was suited for undercover and field operations. For a year, this new Checkmate operated successfully at the direction of the UN Security Council. After this first year was up, their charter came before the Council for renewal. Waller knew, however, that their destiny was in peril. Checkmate had information that implicated the the Chinese government in the manufacture of cyclosarin gas and selling it to Kobra. The Chinese moved to stop Checkmate's (especially Waller's) investigation by vetoing their charter's renewal.

But the poison gas was a smokescreen. What China wanted to hide was the fact that Kobra had compromised its metahuman development facility. A black ops team led by Sasha successfully obtained information from Kobra's computers in Somalia, but her Knight, Jonah, died in the mission. (Checkmate v.2 #1) The race was on then to expose the motivation for China's veto. Ever shrewd, Waller exercised Checkmate's jurisdiction in investigate the missing sarin gas. This gave her an excuse to send a team into China to expose the metahuman facility. (#2)

Mr. Terrific also deduced China's true motives, and ultimately the Black King's Bishop, Shen Li Po, admitted that their program had been compromised. He failed to tell them in time, though, that the facility was scheduled to be "sanitized." (#3)

Considerable tension existed between Black and White in this new Checkmate. Alan Scott was one of America's greatest heroes, and could not abide the casulaties accepted by the Black Ops. To further complicate matters, Scott's own Bishop, Mr. Terrific became romantically involved with the Black Queen. By contrast, the Black King's Knight (Fire) detests the use of lethal force, though she has a history of it from her time in Brazilian service. Then there is Amanda Waller, who wants nothing more than to return to her espionage roots, and head up the Black side. Of course this means that Sasha Bordeaux must be removed from the position...

     
Amanda Waller • Alan Scott •  Sasha Bordeaux • Mister Terrific • Fire

Checkmate's sibling organization was the Suicide Squad, another division of Task Force X. Currently, the Suicide Squad is not officially active, though powerful people in espionage continue to activate it for special missions.

List of Members

 Rank, Name First Affiliation Status
KINGS AND QUEENS
White Queen, Amanda Waller The original Queen, Checkmate! #1
White Queen in Checkmate v.2 #1
Ousted in Checkmate v.2 #20; active with the Suicide Squad
King, Harry Stein Checkmate! #1 Status unknown
King, Sarge Steel Presidential cabinet member in charge of Checkmate (as of Suicide Squad #30) Activ in the Department of Metahuman Affairs
Unnamed Queen Batman: Gotham Knights #37 Deceased Batman: Gotham Knights #38
King, David Said Detective Comics #768?? Status unknown
Queen, The Huntress Batman: Gotham Knights #?? Resigned; active in adventuring
Black King, Maxwell Lord DC Countdown #1 Deceased Wonder Woman #219
Black Queen, Patricia Grace-Colby OMAC Project #2 Killed by Max Lord, OMAC Project #2 (July 1905)
White King, Ahmed Samsarra
White Queen, Oksana Verchenko
Black King, Col. Taleb Beni Khalid Checkmate v.2 #1 Active
Black Queen, Sasha Bordeaux Detective #775; formerly Maxwell Lord's Knight;
Queen in Checkmate v.2 #1
Resigned after Final Crisis: Resist
White King, Alan Scott (Green Lantern I) Checkmate v.2 #1 Resigned; active in adventuring
White King, Mister Terrific II (Michael Holt) Bishop, Checkmate v.2 #1;
King, Checkmate v.2 #8
Resigned; active in the JSA
White Queen, Valentina Vostok (Negative Woman) Bishop, Checkmate! #15
Queen, Checkmate v2. #21
Deceased Final Crisis #4
Black Queen, Jessica Midnight 1st app. Detective Comics #773
Originally Max Lord's Knight
Bishop in Checkmate v.2 #1
Queen in JSA vs. Kobra #5
Promoted after Sasha Bordeaux was incapacitated.
White King, Alton Janus Justice League: Generation Lost #8  
BISHOPS (originally administrative assistants)
Harvey Bullock Checkmate! #1 Resigned; active in the Gotham City Police Department
Phil Kramer Checkmate! #1 Status unknown
Kalia Campbell Checkmate! #5 Status unknown
Scott Jameson Checkmate! #?? Status unknown
Black King's Bishop, Shen Li Po Checkmate v.2 #1 On leave
White Queen's Bishop, King Faraday Checkmate v.2 #1 Active
White King's Bishop, The Thinker (Cliff DeVoe) Checkmate v.2 #9 Active
Black King's Bishop, August General in Iron (Fan Zhifou) Checkmate v.2 #16 Active
ROOKS (field directors): 1st affiliation
  • Grace Guiness: Checkmate! #1.
  • Mr. Wing: #4
  • Jack Wyznowski: #5.
  • Abe Crane: #9
KNIGHTS (field operatives; originally there were 30)
Black King's Knight, Fire (Beatriz da Costa) OMAC Project Special #1 Active
Black Queen's Knight, Jonah McCarthy Wonder Woman v.2 #195 Deceased Checkmate v.2 #1; originally served under Maxwell Lord to spy on Wonder Woman
White King's Knight, Thomas Jagger Checkmate v.2 #1 Active
White Queen's Knight, Count Werner Vertigo Checkmate v.2 #1 Left Checkmate with Amanda Waller
Black Queen's Knight, Madamouiselle Marie (Josephine Tautin) Checkmate v.2 #5 Active
Black King's Knight, August General in Iron (Fan Zhifu) Checkmate v.2 #18 Active
White Queen's Knight Rocket Red #1 (Capt. Chazov) Checkmate v.2 #22 Active
  • Gary Washington: Checkmate! #1.
  • Winston Churchill O'Donnel: #4.
  • Jack Tyler: #6.
  • Aaron (no last name given): #6.
  • Beth Zahar: #7.
  • John Reed: as pawn Checkmate! #1, a knight #8.
  • Roger Dayton: #9.
  • Sir Lionel Wainwright: #11.
  • Connie Webb: #12
  • Ray Carson: #15.
  • Jacques Renard: #17; revealed as a traitor known as the Bishop under the employ of Victor Cypher.
  • Jerry Blake: #19.
  • Conrad Mackay: #21.
  • Mark Nagoya: #30.
  • Jacob Lee, Isobel Sanchez, Arthur Kendrick, Graziella Rea: OMAC Project #2
FREELANCE OPERATIVES
Black Thorn (unrevealed) ?? Active in villainy
Peacemaker (Christopher Smith) ?? Deceased Eclipso #13
Dr. Bridget D'Abo, Psychiatrist ?? Status unknown
Deathstroke (Slade Wilson) Deathstroke #21 Active in villainy
Deadshot (Floyd Lawton) hired by Sarge Steel to assassinate Deathstroke (Deathstroke #42) Active in villainy
Hyram Braddock, Scientist ?? Status unknown
Arsenal(Roy Harper) ?? Active in adventuring
Vigilante V (Pat Trayce) Hawk and Dove v.4 #2-5 Active in adventuring
Vixen (Mari McCabe) Active in adventuring
The Shadowpact Checkmate v.2 #9-10 Active in adventuring

Appearances + References

» FEATURED APPEARANCES:

  • Action Comics #598
  • Captain Atom #30
  • Detective #773-775
  • Firestorm #86
  • JSA Secret Files #2
  • Manhunter #14
  • Peter Cannon Thunderbolt #11 (1993)
  • Suicide Squad v.1 #30
  • Titans #41

» SERIES:

  • Checkmate!, 33 issues (1988-90)
  • The OMAC Project, 7-issue limited series (2005)
  • Checkmate! v.2, 31 issues (2006–08)

» SEE ALSO: