Rating: 3.5/5 – Classic Covert Operative Team Action!
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall
If you’re a fan of the action genre that has a team of operatives banding together to fight threats that jeopardize the world, this new Kickstarter campaign is introducing a team that may be right up your alley. This follows the tradition of teams like Checkmate and H.A.R.D. Corps but strikes out on its own, not feeling directly derivative of any of the teams that have gone before, while displaying a kinship with other similar comics. Add in the “alphabet soup” name (Command Headquarters of Espionage and Strategic Strikes) and it will bring a smile to the face of any fan who can rattle off the meaning of any of the multiple versions of Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. acronym, or even DC’s A.R.G.U.S. or Tower Comics T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents…
Created by Alfred Paige with a plot by Paige & Alex De-Gruchy, and written by De-Gruchy, C.H.E.S.S. #1 is set in a world not that different from the one outside our window and this saves Paige & De-Gruchy from having to do a tremendous amount of world building. The bad guy reveals his nefarious plot early on and this moves the story into team building mode. We’re introduced to the members of the squad, and each has a codename: Heart, Pinpoint, Blowtorch, Airborne, Footpath, and the mandatory “enigmatic team member” Infrared. Mission briefing, personality building team banter en route to engaging with the bad guys, and then the story kicks into action mode. It’s all a bit by-the-book for this kind of story, but I’ve seen this structure many times and it works well enough here, covering the ground that any new book in a new universe must; introducing the characters, their personalities, and the point of conflict that will drive the story moving forward. Ultimately, I found the story to be pretty good, as long as I accept one key plot point that could, for some readers, be a bit hard to swallow. I’m kind of on the fence about it, and don’t want a spoiler in the review. It’s something that if various key individuals thought the way I do, they could easily just sidestep the entire problem that is staring them in the face, but sometimes as a reader you just need to suspend your disbelief on that crucial point that kind of bugs you, because it will cripple your enjoyment of the story if you can’t just accept it.
The art by J.C. Fabul was generally pretty good but had some story flow problems like points where it seems like an extra panel could have been used to fill in a gap between point A and B of the story with more clarity and a tendency to rotate the art also (by this I mean overuse of stuff canted at a 45 degree angle or even almost rotated full horizontal in one case) and the last couple of pages lacked the crisp lines and facial detail present in the rest of the issue, almost looking like Fabul rushed to complete those last couple of pages. The colors by Jorge Cortes had some challenges for me as well, including lighting effect highlights that made a Japanese character with black hair appear to have light brown/blond hair in several places.
I’m glad I was given an opportunity to read the pre-release copy of C.H.E.S.S. #1. The first issue is complete and the Kickstarter to get it printed and into the hands of fans is live now, though fans who back to get a PDF should get it before the print copy is available. I’m a fan of this type of team comic, I liked the characters, and was left with a feeling that I’d like to get to know them better. The art, while not the most compelling part of the comic for me, shows promise and I’ll be interested to see how it evolves in issue #2 and beyond. If you’re a fan of covert action teams with acronym names, or good guys saving the world action comics in general, you’ll definitely want to check this one out.
Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
https://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics for Fans who Love Comics