Checkmate: A King’s Game

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Usually when I blog about a comic, I focus on the narrative.  I’m a word-centric type of person, and so the story is always the focus for me.  Here, though, I’m going to shift my focus and comment instead on the artwork in this trade.

To be more specific, how insanely happy I am that there’s finally a comic in which women aren’t shown half-naked or overdrawn (can I get a Hallelujah?)

Generally when I read a comic, I roll my eyes any time I see a woman’s butt strategically placed in the center of the panel, or whenever someone’s boobs are drawn so incredibly large that it’s impossible to look away.  At first, I didn’t notice anything extraordinary about this comic.  I was reading my way through it, taking in the story and the art without any different sorts of observations. It wasn’t until this panel that I began to realize why this comic felt a little different.

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Baggy pants. We have a female character in baggy pants and a completely non-revealing top.  Have I stumbled into an alternate universe?? (Hey, in DC, it’s a very real possibility).

Once I noticed this major difference in the artwork, I began to focus on the way in which artists  Jesus Saiz and Cliff Richards portrayed women in this comic.  As it turns out, they’re much kinder to the female form than many others.

The women in Checkmate are not here to be eye candy. We’re meant to focus on their actions, not their asests, and as such their bodies are not nearly as overdrawn as many I’ve seen.  They’re given clothing that is realistic and appropriate for covert operations, and even those aren’t overly-sexualized.

Even Fire’s depiction here is less obnoxious.

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Considering she is completely naked and covered in green flames, Fire’s appearance here is handled quite tastefully.  Her body isn’t overly emphasized, allowing her entertaining speech to be of more focus than her nudity.  Most artists might have relished the opportunity to draw Fire in all of her naked glory, emphasizing every little curve to appeal to readers. Instead, the artwork is subtle and perfect, focusing more on the story and less on gratuitous semi-nudity.

Some could argue that the artwork is simply indicative of the type of story this is, with the clothing of the women refecting the serious-minded, spy-like nature of the story.  I suppose this could be true, but I’m led to believe it’s a conscious decision by the artists, given the many opportunities they had to make a character more overtly sexual, which they seem to have passed up.

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Here, Sasha Bordeaux is working on in the gym.  Had another artist drawn this, her sports bra would be barely covering her over-amplified chest, and she’d be wearing “practically underwear” shorts which would prominently display her butt in the frame.  Instead, a towel is draped across her neck, with it and well-placed shadows effectively obscuring her chest.  Likewise, the panel cuts off right below her hips, with no emphasis whatsoever placed on her ass.  Given that she is contemplating her future with Mr. Terrific in this scene, I was happy to see the emphasis placed on emotion, and not her physical appearance. It makes this panel so much more effective, and doesn’t draw the reader out of the story the way a more gratuitous, revealing image might.

Overall I was quite impressed with the way the female form was presented in this comic, and I tip my hat to Saiz and Richards for having been so astute in their depiction of a woman’s body.  Given how many trades on “the shelf” feature half-naked, overdrawn female characters, it’s a nice change of pace to see emphasis placed on the story and action, rather than male fantasies.  The story itself was interesting, focusing on Checkmate’s next phase (with Amanda Waller being as sneaky as ever, because of course).  Still, the artwork is what stood out most to me, and definitely raised this comic up a notch in terms of quality.  Here’s hoping other artists take up this cause and start depicting women as more than sexual objects. It’d make for much better stories.

-Jess

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