Highlighting the disconcerting dangers of mercenaries being armed with technology which incorporates a manufacturer’s kill-switch, this opening instalment of Alfred Paige’s creation “C.H.E.S.S.” must surely have gone down well with its readers courtesy of its action-packed mixture of pulse-pounding gun-play and the sort of adult-orientated seriousness many mature “Hasbro” fans probably wished the animated adventures of “G.I. Joe” incorporated. In fact, it’s hard not to draw several comparisons between the ever-commanding Avery Davis’ off the grid “covert unit” and the “line of action figures” who continually struggle against the evil Cobra Command, as both feature a plethora of bizarrely-attired combat specialists, code-names and secret headquarters in their bid to thwart terrorism taking over the Free World; “Your mission is to investigate Takashi Nakadai and his operations. At first we observe, and then if necessary we disrupt. And if, based on your findings, I deem it necessary… We eliminate.”
Fortunately however, this Kickstarter funded publication is far more than an imitation of the trademarked “Real American Hero” franchise, replacing the toy-line’s woefully ineffective fire-fights with plenty of gritty, downright vicious close combat which produces the sort of bodily mutilation and head-shots that wouldn’t look out of place within the “militaristic black-ops” adventures of “X-Force” by “Marvel Worldwide”. Supported by its colourful cast’s grim humour, most notably the exchanges between Pinpoint and the disturbingly masked Blowtorch, such pitched battles really do help power this comic through its plot, providing a tense, well-developed meeting between the team’s newly acquired arms dealer and a Kyoto-based information broker with a satisfyingly thrilling conclusion which subsequently raises some significant concerns as to the reliability of their “first visitor to our little mountain retreat”, Errol Schafer.
Perhaps penned somewhat less successfully by Alex De-Gruchy, quite possibly due to the somewhat limited ‘screen time’ this twenty-two page periodical provides them, are Nakadai’s own team of super-powered assassins who apparently are perfectly capable of both infiltrating a private estate across the other side of the world in Minnesota and, quite perturbingly, murdering an innocent mother and child so as to make a statement. Their ninja-like introduction at the start of this book is as welcome as it is truly intimidating, but disappointingly their scene at its end is arguably somewhat confusingly story-boarded, supposedly depicting Yumi throwing a tantrum and endangering her colleagues simply because the child wanted to see her father..?
Indeed, the artwork for Issue One of “C.H.E.S.S.” genuinely appears to be a mixed affair which at certain points, such as JC Fabul’s deadly depiction of thirteen CIS contractors who “were carrying out a mission in Ramada when they became surrounded by local insurgents and slaughtered”, provides some sense-shattering visuals. Whilst some of the other sketched sequences, most notably the aforementioned disagreement involving Takashi’s daughter “almost one-hundred feet below ground-level” appear to be of a debatably dissimilar quality. Such discrepancies are though perfectly understandable when one realises that the freelance illustrator Hakan Aydin laudably stepped in at the last minute so as to ensure the comic met its publication deadline when its Manila-born penciler fell ill.