Right, so I wanted to talk about it a little bit, and I have some spare time as I consider my commitments to the site, so why not get to it? “The Widening Gyre” has wrapped up, Justice League is now on hiatus and Checkmate’s season finale will hit in the next month or so. Now’s as good a time as any.
So, “The Widening Gyre” was my attempt to do something different disguised as a crossover between my two ongoings. Let me explain:
You can easily have one issue lead into another, and have a story spread across multiple titles. We did it to dramatic—and successful!-- effect at the end of our first year with “The Apokolips Imperative”, which rang through the tenth issue of all our titles, but we’ve never done anything like that since. Why should we? It would be like trying to capture lightning in a bottle, and rehashing old ground could diminish what came before.
“The Apokolips Imperative” is a true distillation of everything that made the DC2 a wonderful place to contribute and collaborate, and stands as a monument to what the site was always intended to be.
Since then, we’ve had miniseries with special tie-ins or one-shots / miniseries-- “Justice League Vs America”, “Zero Hour” and “Nemesis” to name a few. We’ve had crossovers between titles, like “The Return” in the Bat-Books, “Affairs of Blood and Fate”-- that ran between Danger Trail and New Outsiders-- and may more. All fantastic stories, all great packages of writing and art from our stellar creative teams.
But I wanted to do something different with “The Widening Gyre”. Originally, it was going to be a purely Justice League story, a three-parter to tie up loose ends from the epic “Breaking Up” arc that ran in issues prior, but as it percolated in my head, it became clear that it could dovetail really nicely into where I was taking Checkmate. I quickly built the story up, then realised that I didn’t want this to be like stories that came before. I wanted to experiment and mess around, and that led to one of the harder stories I’ve had to write.
Basically, I didn’t want the two stories to rely on each other to be enjoyed. If you’ve read Checkmate up until the crossover, you shouldn’t have to read Justice League to understand the former. And likewise, it’s highly likely that you’re not reading Checkmate if you’re reading Justice League. They’re two different animals.
So, that means that the events of “The Widening Gyre” are going on in both books, but we’re seeing different angles of it in them.
As a book, Checkmate was originally intended to be a “response” to whatever I did in Justice League. This organisation that is meant to be policing the “World’s Greatest Heroes” actions is-- by definition-- perpetually ineffectual in mainstream comics, but what if they’re not in the DC2niverse? In the comics, they’re almost always positioned as being overbearing or antagonistic, but they’re meant to be protecting the world! They’re the heroes of their own book! Why can’t be the heroes in other books too?
(Anyway, with that in mind, when Checkmate shows up in the Hall of Justice, they’re arses, but there’s a reason for that, in-story. I go on about wanting to subvert the form, then I double down with it instead. Oops.)
When one of the Justice Leaguers breaks bad, you know that Checkmate can’t leave them to their own devices to sort it out, especially when the world finds out about what the Guardian did. That ties into the ongoing conspiracy that’s formed the spine of Checkmate, so we see the first wider implications of that, too. They have to act. They have to be the police in this world.
Anyway, I don’t want to delve too much into plot, because what the stories are on the site for, but I wanted this to be a crossover where the books had a different take on the same events, sometimes running parallel, sometimes flowing into each other, but being able to stand alone in their own way. You can read the individual titles and get one story in each, or you can read both and things alluded to or hinted at are elaborated upon massively. It’s entirely up to you.
And the title? “…The Widening Gyre…” is from W. B. Yeats’ The Second Coming, a poem about Europe in the aftermath of the First World War, using imagery hearkening to the Apocalypse and the Second Coming. I’ve taken titles for issues of Justice League from phrases in Yeats’ work before, because they’re so striking, and he's the poetic gift that keeps on giving. Using "The Widening Gyre” evokes so much and is perfect for what I wanted to do with this story. Uh, now I just sound wanky so I’m going to start wrapping things up.
But this story lays more foundation for the big event of 2020. Because things are falling apart on Earth-1, and surely, the centre cannot hold, can it? Next year we’re going to see something I’ve been planning since Justice League #38 come to fruition. Something called…
Oh! You’re probably wondering what’s going on with all those other stories I've been announcing since last year?
And there are several other COUNTDOWN TO... miniseries and one-shots I've not teased yet that are going to help build ESCHATON WAR into the biggest thing I've ever written for the site. No pressure on myself, of course. Oh, jeez. Oh, jeez.
No pressure indeed, Charlie! Finally had the time this weekend to finish up "The Widening Gyre." This has been a very dark, tragic run in many ways, so it's been a tough pill to swallow! It's not always easy to write a convincing heel turn for a hero like the Guardian, but you pulled it off very well-- after all his whole family is dead. I really liked Batman's reaction-- his sense of betrayal, that Guardian violated his faith, basically, after the two of them struck sparks earlier in Justice League but had a sort of yin-yang like respect for each other. Guardian is so tragically misguided... betraying his values, the League, and then poor Angela! (And on top of all that... he does have a member of his family left that he doesn't know about!)
I will say it felt more like a Checkmate-driven event than a Justice League story, even in the pages of JL. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but we didn't really get any POV reactions to Guardian's actions from some of his peers that I realized I was waiting for when I read Pt. 5 and didn't see them. That said, I know the focus was on Batman/Guardian and the Guardian/Angela, and those were very emotional and powerful scenes. (DAMN IT! NOT ENGINEER! Sucked into...somewhere! At least she's not dead, Charlie, so help me... kidding, mainly.)
Overall, I enjoyed seeing the two angles or perspectives in Justice League and Checkmate. As I said before, I think you have a really good voice for espionage and spy thrillers. I love Checkmate's organization and mandate and the big players like Valentina and Naif are really fun. As Steve and Catherine's plan slowly unfolded, revealed in this issue, I had a big grin on my face. Great twist, and here's hoping they pull it off. (Even if Eschaton War is coming.) I really like the reappearance of Sasha Bourdeaux from Suicide Squad, and hope we see more of her.
Great job. This was a top-notches capes-and-powers political thriller. Looking forward to seeing where this goes before Eschaton War.
No pressure indeed, Charlie! Finally had the time this weekend to finish up "The Widening Gyre." This has been a very dark, tragic run in many ways, so it's been a tough pill to swallow! It's not always easy to write a convincing heel turn for a hero like the Guardian, but you pulled it off very well-- after all his whole family is dead.
Thanks for taking the time to read, O. I know you’re a busy man so I always appreciate your feedback. This six-parter—or two parallel three-parters—was always meant to be a left turn away from what had come before, so I’m glad it felt different from previous stories.
One thing I think is really important for heel or face turns (yay, wrestling terminology) is that it feels EARNED. Breaking Guardian down to this level has been a long time coming, since his daughter was first admitted into hospital… two Christmas specials ago? I knew where the story was going to end up for him, and I also know where it’s going to go next.
Sufficed to say, Angie won’t be able to pay him a visit like she promised, and after everything Harper did “to make her safe” (whether or not that was the reason or if he truly believes it to be the reason is another story), that won’t sit well for a man incarcerated for however long he’s incarcerated for. James is the kind of man driven enough to go to insane lengths to protect his own, so we should be worried!
I really liked Batman's reaction-- his sense of betrayal, that Guardian violated his faith, basically, after the two of them struck sparks earlier in Justice League but had a sort of yin-yang like respect for each other.
I was really happy that their relationship evolved in the way it did. Their powersets were similar but different enough to work; one earned every advantage he had, while the other was gifted them. They’re both righteous but have different views of morality.
I knew that this was where their relationship was going to go since before #50, and their interaction regarding accountability in… #52?... was intended to be a beacon to call back to when I eventually reached the delivery of this story.
…I have to stop planning these things so obsessively in advance!
Guardian is so tragically misguided... betraying his values, the League, and then poor Angela! (And on top of all that... he does have a member of his family left that he doesn't know about!)
Yes! The Guardian and the Midnighter’s familial relationship was in the cards since I first started planning my potential Authority series around 10YL’s inception, and when that kind of fell to the wayside, I knew I wanted to plant my flag on this hill. Bendix is a monster, he’s always been a monster, and while his fall from grace wasn’t entirely… his fault… that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have imploded eventually anyway.
That sad thing is, Bendix is running free, building monsters, selling super soldiers to the highest bidder, still causing problems for anyone with a tangential connection to the Harper family tree, and the patriarch of that family is locked up! And rightly so, too. The question is, for how long, and if any court in the world would punish him for his execution of the Joker. His murder of Angelo is another story entirely though… what kind of defense—if any—does he have?
I will say it felt more like a Checkmate-driven event than a Justice League story, even in the pages of JL. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but we didn't really get any POV reactions to Guardian's actions from some of his peers that I realized I was waiting for when I read Pt. 5 and didn't see them.
A missed opportunity, but also the result of narrative burnout. This story was hell to get out, because I was having to drag myself through each issue. I’ve still not delivered the season finale of Checkmate though I do have some plans.
I wish I had spent a bit of time with each of the active members of the team, Heroes In Crisis-styled oners would have been really interesting, but it didn’t occur to me at the time. Also, the leak of the story to Lois Lane—and the rest of the world—should have been explored more. I tried with the Jack Ryder monologue, but didn’t follow through as much as I wanted. Another segment was planned for that to follow-up on the vote—I was going to scour the internet for people’s reasons Batman should / shouldn’t kill the Joker and play with inserting them into the story, but it felt forced.
Checkmate was intended to be the place to see the wider world respond to something going on in the insular world of the Justice League, but eventually it became about churning through the story until we reached the conclusion.
That said, I know the focus was on Batman/Guardian and the Guardian/Angela, and those were very emotional and powerful scenes.
That’s a relief. Building up the relationship between Angela and James was important, and while we haven’t seen their first meeting, I have actually written it.
The allusions to the original Engineer’s first attack on the world, and his removal of all his research is covered in an untold / unpublished Global Peace Agency story that the first chapter is written for, but because I’ve not finished it, I don’t want to post it. That story—started in 2015--!--- is sat in a folder, and while I could post it tomorrow, there’s no guarantee next month would see the second chapter.
Overall, I enjoyed seeing the two angles or perspectives in Justice League and Checkmate. As I said before, I think you have a really good voice for espionage and spy thrillers. I love Checkmate's organization and mandate and the big players like Valentina and Naif are really fun.
Naif and Valentina are great to write! Everyone needs to be smart, they all need to be the smartest in the room, and making sure no one is written “dumb” is important. Also, while Valentina is power-hungry and conniving, she isn’t necessarily evil, but her upbringing and surroundings play a role in every decision and move she makes.
In season two, the plan is to delve into each Royal’s history and see what makes them tick. We already know Naif lost his family and resigned from his post as the top intelligence agent of his homeland as a result; we all have a cursory knowledge of Steve and Valentina, and I think Catherine is an exciting prospect to explore. I want to make sure this isn’t the Steve Trevor and Checkmate show, so I also plan on moving the focus way from the White King’s side of things after the first season. His mandate is to investigate, not to act, so we should be shifting the focus over to the Black Queen’s operation soon enough.
As Steve and Catherine's plan slowly unfolded, revealed in this issue, I had a big grin on my face. Great twist, and here's hoping they pull it off. (Even if Eschaton War is coming.) I really like the reappearance of Sasha Bourdeaux from Suicide Squad, and hope we see more of her. Great job. This was a top-notches capes-and-powers political thriller. Looking forward to seeing where this goes before Eschaton War.
Right, so the season one finale is going to come out this year. I want it to act like a “television movie” styled finale, so we’ll get the continuation of the previous nine issue’s story, but also have an introduction of something new that’ll get wrapped by the final full stop. I think we’re going to learn Sasha Bordeaux’s DC2 backstory, and how that interacts with all the events of the site.
Interestingly—but also terrifyingly—the conclusion is going to be an elaborate heist, and do you know what Checkmate are stealing? The future. I’m quite excited to be able to get that out at some point!
Oh, and have I mentioned that in-canon, its been nearly five years since The Apokolips Invasion? That’ll be important moving into season two!