I’m just going to go ahead and say it: reading “JSA vs. Kobra” makes me wish that this story had run in “Justice Society of America” as the first post-Johns story. It’s nothing against Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges, whom I’m sure will grow into the title with time. Eric Trautmann’s script, though, makes it feel like he’s been writing the team for years.
“JSA vs. Kobra” is at the halfway point now, and Trautmann’s managed to not lose sight of all the various members of the JSA, which is a feat in its own right. More importantly, though, he writes the characters that make them come across naturally and as a direct growth of events in other books. The tensions between Power Girl as leader of the JSA, and Mr. Terrific and his position in Checkmate, work well in this story that uses both organizations. It doesn’t feel forced, and both of them have a point in terms of how they’re trying to combat Kobra’s strikes against them.
More importantly, Kobra comes across as a genuinely terrifying organization in a way that they didn’t in the “Faces of Evil” introductory one-shot back in February. Trautmann makes the new Kobra much more frightening and dangerous than anything we’ve seen up until now. Their perpetual “one step ahead” tactic does so not by making the JSA or Checkmate stupid, but rather by making Kobra that much more on the ball and using new strategies. They’re a strong adversary now that deserves respect in a way that doesn’t feel cartoonish or over the top. Trautmann’s using real-world terror tactics with super-powered ammunition, and the end result is compelling reading.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve read a comic drawn by Don Kramer, but he’s gotten a lot stronger than I remember from before. He’s got a lot of energy in his pencils, and generally a good grasp of anatomy and body language. (I’m willing to forgive the one over-the-top page where the JSA discover a dead body in their headquarters, which just looks ludicrous.) Kramer’s pages are handsomely set up, too; I like the different textured backgrounds he’s using on some of the pages, and they help really set the mood for those scenes.
“JSA vs. Kobra” is good, to the point that I wish it was in the main title so that it would get more attention. It makes me a little sad that when Rucka left “Checkmate” that Trautmann didn’t end up writing the book solo, because based on this story he clearly was ready for it. On the bright side, I’m all the more eager to see what he does with “The Shield” later this year. Until then, though, definitely check out “JSA vs. Kobra.” Right now, it’s the place to go for your Justice Society fix.