Checkmate is a governmental intelligence agency established by Amanda Waller as an independent branch of Task Force X. The organization took its name from the winning move in chess, and its hierarchy was modeled after the pieces in the classic board game. Kings and Queens are the leaders, Bishops oversee missions behind the scenes, Rooks plan the missions, Knights carry out the missions, and Pawns are the support staff. Later, during Maxwell Lord's first tenure as Black King, designations of Black or White indicated whether an operative's specialty is Operations (Black) or Intelligence (White). Following the events of the Infinite Crisis, Checkmate was rechartered as a United Nations Security Council-affiliated agency.
Checkmate was created from its predecessor group, the Agency, which was originally set up by Amanda Waller to serve as a small, quasi-independent branch of Task Force X under the command of Colonel Valentina Vostok (formerly Negative Woman of the Doom Patrol) to perform operations worldwide considered vital to the security of American interests. She relinquished command to New York Police Lieutenant Harry Stein, who recreated the agency with a new image and organization, dubbed Checkmate, in relation to its chess-inspired organizational scheme. In these early days, Checkmate fought terrorists (such as the American Supremacist Party) and organized crime.
The Janus Directive
Checkmate was involved in an inter-agency war between the Suicide Squad and Project Atom, who were manipulated by the international terrorist Kobra in order to distract the United States intelligence community from his activities. Checkmate lost at least 38 Knight agents (tallying to more than two thirds of Checkmate's Knight force) and its headquarters (as well as its cover, Konig Industries) in Shelby, Virginia in the incident. In the aftermath, Sarge Steel took Amanda Waller's place as head of Checkmate, and Checkmate relocated to a new NORAD base in Colorado.
Deathstroke, the Terminator
Sarge Steel reactivated Checkmate in order to find the comatose body of the assassin Deathstroke. Phil Kramer was promoted to King and Kalia Campbell to Queen. Harry Stein was put on a indefinite leave of absence after his son was shot.
Checkmate Knights invaded the lair of supervillain Cheshire, but most were killed by her operatives and a revived Deathstroke. Two surviving Checkmate agents were about to defeat Deathstroke, only to be subdued by Roy Harper (at that time also known as Speedy), revealed to be helping Cheshire as a double agent in both Checkmate and the Brotherhood of Evil. A Russian equivalent to Checkmate intervened when Deathstroke, Cheshire, Speedy, and others tried to steal a group of nuclear warheads in Russia. It was revealed that Harper called in Checkmate and that he was working on their side all along. Ultimately, Deathstroke was also revealed to be working for the CIA, and joined up with the American and Russian joint operation that invaded Cheshire's base, defeating Cheshire before she could destroy the country of Qurac with the warheads.
David Said took over the role of King within the organization. Checkmate invaded the Batcave in order to recruit the Huntress in the process. On Batman's word she agreed to temporarily assume the mantle of Queen, using this position to relay information to Batman on at least one occasion.
After Bruce Wayne and his bodyguard and partner Sasha Bordeaux were framed for the murder of Vesper Fairchild, Checkmate recruited the Bordeaux as a Checkmate operative. With the help of Knight Jessica Midnight, the two faked Sasha's death and she underwent plastic surgery.
The OMAC Project
Shortly prior to the Infinite Crisis, Maxwell Lord had assumed the position of Black King within Checkmate with the intent of manipulating the agency to kill all of the metahumans present on Earth. In order to hide his activities, which included hijacking and reprogramming the super-spy satellite Brother I that Batman originally built to monitor all metahumans to his own purposes, Lord murdered his former ally Blue Beetle. He also mind-controlled Superman, sending the hero after other former allies such as Batman and Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman then proceeded to kill Lord in order to break his control on Superman's mind, which left Checkmate dismantled as an organization.
One Year Later
In the aftermath of the Infinite Crisis, Checkmate was disbanded by the President of the United States after being convinced by the Martian Manhunter, who had spent months undercover undermining the remnants of Checkmate. Within days, however, Checkmate was reconstituted as a United Nations agency and, pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1696, reorganized as the UN's Chartered Metahuman Monitoring Force.
The organization was restructured utilizing the "Rule of Two". Each super-powered or otherwise enhanced member in the "Royal Family" must have an un-powered counterpart in a corresponding position of power. The Royal Family consisted of Taleb Beni Khalid (Black King), Sasha Bordeaux (Black Queen), Alan Scott (White King), and Amanda Waller (White Queen). Pawns still remained as low-level field agents. The Rooks were a highly powerful black ops squad. The Knights were special agents and the Bishops advisers.
Initially, the United Nations Security Council had voted on whether to charter Checkmate as a permanent organization. While the Royal Family believed France would veto the resolution to cover up the fact that Kobra was obtaining weapons from a French source, the actual source, and veto, came from China. Checkmate agents infiltrated a Chinese weapons base, discovered a super-human facility, and entered into a confrontation with the Great Ten. White King Alan Scott intervened, locating the Kobra mole and allowing China to save face in return for removing its veto. The resolution to allow Checkmate's continued existence passed. The United States, on the other hand, was angry that Alan Scott prevented them from publicly embarrassing China and removed him from the organization. Scott chose his Bishop, Mister Terrific, as his successor.
Internal problems later arose within Checkmate when suspicions and distrust fell on Amanda Waller, who had continued to covertly direct black ops missions unknown to her organization. Waller blackmailed Black King's Knight Fire, a one-time assassin, with knowledge of her father Ramon Corvalho's participation in war crimes decades earlier, and convinced her to testify against him to avoid a court martial. Due to the assistance of Martian Manhunter, this culminated in the Royals learning about Operation: Salvation Run, a secret campaign of deporting Earth's super-villains off-planet, and succeeded in providing sufficient evidence to force Waller to resign. Waller's position was then taken over by Valentina Vostok, the original founder of Checkmate's predecessor, the Agency.
In the wake of the Final Crisis and Blackest Night, Mr. Terrific and Sasha Bordeaux had both resigned and Valentina Vostok was dead. Alton Janus and Taleb Beni Khalid were the only Royals remaining. A resurrected Maxwell Lord managed to regain leadership of Checkmate by having the Justice League International discredit the organization by making the it look incompetent, causing the United Nations to pull its funding and fire Khalid and most of the other senior Checkmate higher-ups, leaving Lord to rise through the ranks unopposed.
- Checkmate is considered to be the world's premier spy agency.
- 163 Appearances of Checkmate (New Earth)
- 40 Images that include Checkmate (New Earth)
- Team Gallery: Checkmate (New Earth)
Links and References
- Who's Who in the DC Universe #7
- Deathstroke the Terminator #17
- 52 #24
- 52 #25
- Checkmate (Volume 2) #1-#4
- Checkmate (Volume 2) #18-#20
- DC Comics Encyclopedia: All-New Edition - Despite many entries being of Prime Earth, Sasha Bordeaux's entry in the encyclopedia is that of New Earth and describes Checkmate as the "world's most powerful spy organization".