When I first heard of this mini, I was a smidge dismissive. Comics with ‘vs’ in the title have a habit of being a bit one-note, and I’d heard it posited as a sequel to to the Kobra one-shot from back in the Faces of Evil series. When I got to the shop, however, I saw Eric Trautmann’s name on the cover. Trautmann collaborated with Rucka on Checkmate a couple years back, when Checkmate was one of the best titles on the shelves, and the book appeared to follow Mr. Terrific from the fallout of Checkmate and then later Rucka/Trautmann collaboration Final Crisis: Resist.
True enough, JSA vs. Kobra is a follow up to both books, as well as to the Kobra one-shot, but Trautmann makes sure that those many, many readers who didn’t follow either title aren’t lost. After an attack on Mr. Terrific outside of JSA Headquarters, he gets ready to take the matter to Checkmate. However, Power Girl and the rest of the team feel like this was an attack on the whole team, and convince Terrific that they should handle it. The meat of the issue is split between two plots – Mr. Terrific and the JSA using Checkmate’s resources to hunt down Kobra operatives, and the Kobra leader setting up a major strike.
Trautmann manages to maintain a steady pacing on the frequent, brief action beats without losing hold of the espionage sections. The art by Don Kramer is mostly solid, though little about it stands out as particularly praiseworthy, and a few panels are a little off-putting at first.
That said, though, and despite the fact that a lot happened in the issue, it doesn’t feel like we’re much farther than we were when we began. In fact, the entire issue feels a bit like a prologue. This isn’t particularly surprising – Checkmate also had seemingly slow single issues that came together wonderfully. With hope, Trautmann and Kramer will follow suit make JSA vs. Kobra: Engines of Faith a worthy epilogue to an excellent series. This issue certainly offers a promising, if slow, start.