Friday, April 20, 2007

Corvalho: Part Two (DC comics)
Checkmate #12 When: May 2007
Why: Greg Rucka & Nunzio Defilippis How: Steve Scott & Cliff Richards

The story so far...
Political tensions are mounting in the South American state of Santa Prisca. With an impending election, Bane retaliates against a cocktail of corruption and election tampering with his own hard tactics of independent militia and stern curfews.

The International agency of Checkmate responds to the distress call of Colonel Computron, who has information regarding the mastermind behind the election tampering he aided.

With need of evidence, some of Checkmate agents suspect their own White Queen, Amanda Waller, of being responsible. When each King's Knight is distributed into the field, little do they realise the Black Knight, Beatriz "Fire" Dacosta, has been blackmailed by Waller into destroying Computron.

As if that wasn't bad enough, there's the little matter of White Knight, Tommy Jaggar. Jagger's father, the hero known as Judomaster, was murdered by Bane during the Battle of Metropolis, who was among those representing The Society.

Previous Form:
Bane (#179): Bane was defeated by Captain America.
Tommy Jagger: The son of Judomaster has not yet been featured.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Bane 4 (Steroid Popper)
Intelligence: Bane 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Bane 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Tommy Jagger 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Bane 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Draw 1 (None)

We're a week behind again as I continue to enjoy trips to the dentist.
The dentist really isn't an important part of the tape, but I felt like getting some sympathy. Woe is me.

Woe is Tommy Jagger, also! His father was very recently killed in the pages of Infinite Crisis, suffering a lethal version of the move that broke the Batman's back, and very nearly ended his career as Batman! That's right, we are of course talking about Bane, and that means it's all about the back breaker!

These guys are pretty different in most respects, but the only major factor seperating them would have to be degrees of strength. Even without the venom serum, which is what Bane's tape measurement is based on, he is a formiddable, physical presence. You add the venom to the equation, and it gets big time!

Of course, with the venom comes the awfully obvious weakness of a tube dangling from the back of his skull down to his wrist. We've seen it in the film, in the cartoon, and in the comics before, and frankly I'm glad to see it gone.
With the tube in effect, there's the chance anyone could defeat Bane by the shock of withdrawl, or an overdose of the drug.

Taking that out of the equation, Jagger's greatest skills here are speed and agility. Although, despite his impressive muscular bulk, Bane is known to be a surprisingly quick fighter, and his tactical skills are comparable to that of Batman himself.

I guess the conclusion is that Jagger certainly has no reason to fear going up against Bane, but he would certainly have a reason afterward.
Though he's been built up to be a pretty impressive new character in the pages of Checkmate, he just isn't a Batman, or an Azrael. Which, by the tape, makes it hard to pick him against the Santa Priscian behemoth called Bane!

The Math: Bane
The Pick: Bane

What went down...
The green flames of Beatriz Dacosta's attack against Computron ignite his hiding place, alerting Bane and his militia of her presence. Bane, having concerns that Checkmate may be interfering in the election on the United Nation's behalf, makes an explosive entrance.

The roof! The roof! The roof is on fire!!!Jagger, having secured the remains of Computron's floating head in a containment case, he orders Fire to keep them from Bane's grips in the hopes that data may be retrieved from the deceased's computer style memory.

Bane looms over the White King's Knight, disappointed that the "legendary" Brazilian green flame is fleeing, but concedes to make-do with the son of the Judomaster.

Jagger attempts to diffuse the situation, reasoning for an opportunity to explain the presence of he and his Checkmate fellow, and their involvement in the fixing scandal of the Santa Priscan election.

Unfortunately for him, Bane has already made up his mind about the motives and nobilities of those he perceives as unwelcome interferances.
He also explains his explicit knowledge of exactly who he is facing, and the familial resonance his confrontation with Jagger has.

Even affronted with a callous reference to his father's murder, Jagger remains a professional soldier of Checkmate. He declares his desire to resolve the situation peacefully, but as Bane swings his fists in a clubbing axe handle, Jagger is quickly finding himself with few options.

Bane shares more of his anti-UN paranoia, completely unwilling to hear the truths spouted by Jagger.

Intent on resolving the situation with his fists, Bane snatches the far smaller man into the air by the shoulder, and lifts him above his head. He remarks on the final moments of the Judomaster, and finally Jagger is forced to act.

The White King throws his leg out, connecting with a boot to the face of the South American powerhouse. It is enough to free him of the grip.

Jagger berates Bane for his siding with The Society of villains, and proudly boasts his father's heroic death as one of the heroes who stood against them as they marched through Metropolis. He denounces Bane's dishonorable decision to attack kill the Judomaster for little more reason than the fact he stood in his path. This, all while side-stepping a thundering right hand from Bane, which he counters with an elbow strike to the jugular.

Jagger swings the far larger of the two around to face the raging green flames left by Fire, and strikes him hard at the small of his back.
He follows it with a stiff kick to the back of the knee, punctuating his demand for respect for his father.

On his knees, Bane finds himself held by the back of the head, staring down the scalding fire as Jagger receives a transmission confirming his partner's arrival to safety.

Jagger releases his grip, and does his best to finally make it clear to Bane that Checkmate are not his enemy. With the professionalism demanded of him, he releases his foe. By the time Bane turns, the White Knight is already gone.

The hammer...
Well, it looks like the win goes to the debutant - Tommy Jagger.

I'm not going to make any bones about the situation on this fight. If anyone is seeking this particular entry out, it's probably off the back of Bane's stardom as the man who broke the Batman. So, in a way, it's probably a disappointing result to see Bane go down to a relative unknown, and fairly new character. Sorry about that.

On the flipside, hopefully it's been a pleasant introduction to one of the underrated books coming out of DC right now. For a book that's had so many ties to other events across the DC landscape, including characters appearing and involved in 52 and One Year Later, it's surprising it isn't doing better.
Then again, perhaps it's the subtlty of that fact that both makes it an enjoyable read, but gives it no benefit of reaching out to those readers who might be interested.

I was somewhat disturbed to find Checkmate languishing around the 20k sales mark, which for many is a death sentence. Only the likes of Manhunter and Spider-Girl, whose fanbases appear to be minor, but powerful, have avoided the cut of the 20k axe.

I'm not going to claim this to be the greatest book on the shelves right now.
I think that's an over estimation of the materials, which are a simplified political/spy style thriller with a few familiar faces. The casual and simple pace is reminiscent, I feel, of Gotham Central, in many ways. And likewise, the hype could potentially be an over estimation as I felt with that book.
Even so, it has been very enjoyable, and some of these potential critiques are positives, particularly for the less confident reader.

The departure of Alan Scott [the original Golden Age Green Lantern - Encyclopedia Miktanica] may be a turn-off for some, but they should be encouraged to invest in new characters like Jagger, and even the more seasoned like Mr. Terrific [JSA], Amanda Waller and Fire [Justice League International] and Sasha Bordeaux [Batman].

This particular two-part story [issues #12-#13] is a great little yarn that has the superficial fun of a Bane guest-spot, the on-going arc of Amanda Waller's rogue tactics, and also an interesting insight into some of the Brazillian Fire's background, and what drives her to be the hero she is.

All that, plus Fire's father is clearly modelled on Sean Connery, which makes for fun reading. I dare anyone who picks up these two issues (which you all should) to not read his lines like it were Connery's crotchety follow-up role to League of Extraordinary Gentlmen.

I can't say enough to encourage people to get in on this, because the only reason I haven't featured it sooner is that I haven't felt there's been a big enough fight. It's such a versatile read it combines field action with intelligent, interesting and linear story telling.

If there's a misstep in this issue, it's the Bane situation.

Bane, as I mentioned, has the claim to fame as being the man who broke Bruce Wayne's back. It's something most of us know, even if we're the most casual of comic book fans. In fact, there's probably a contingent of people on the street who know nothing of the crunch, but could still tell you Bane broke Batman's back.

Like a Doomsday, who likewise has the claim to fame of killing Superman, he's a character who's never really been free to live-up to anything else.
The powers-that-be, intelligently, chickened out of replacing Batman with a French-Canadian in a powersuit, and Bane was thus reduced to a beatable menace lacking in true motivation or relevance.

Like a lot of popular villains [including Doomsday], Bane transitioned into the anti-hero side of things, and maybe I'm a bit of a sucker for it, but I thought it worked.
I guess you could look at Bane one of two ways. He's a man who served time for crimes committed by his father, so until his release and progression into the life of a mercenary, he never really had any blood on his hands.

Thus he could; A) Have a guilt complex and do the Batman/Spider-man thing and attempt to give his life to the servitude and betterment of others. Or, alternatively, B) he could consider his entire existence one big case of double jeopardy, and live a life of indulgence at the expense of any and all who stand in his way.

Honestly, I guess even that over simplifies the character who is supposed to be a brilliant strategist. And I've enjoyed some periods, like his dealings with weening off of the venom drug, battling counterparts of said drug, and working toward his origins and peace with the Batman.
Of course, things like those just tend to come unstuck when you have events like Infinite Crisis, and the depiction here which suggests venom is back on the agenda. Which really just again throws Bane into a directionless characterization of boobery, which is not befitting of the brilliant tactician who broke the Bat.

In closing, I'm maybe going to rate this issue a bit generously, just because I think it's worth recommending to anyone visiting the site.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 6

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