"Engines of Faith" opens with Mr. Terrific, a self-declared atheist, coming to grips with the fate that has enshrouded his paramour, Sasha Bordeaux. Both of them are members of Checkmate, but it is Mr. Terrific's ties to the JSA that bridge the gap between Checkmate and the Justice Society and bring the JSA into the struggle against Kobra. Kobra has targeted Mr. Terrific specifically in an attack under the direction of their newly resurrected leader, Jason Burr. Burr was resurrected in DC's "Faces of Evil" non-event earlier this year.
With narration split between Michael Holt (Mr. Terrific) and Jason Burr (Kobra), Eric Trautmann manages to deliver a story that feels like it was co-written by Greg Rucka and Geoff Johns. Trautmann brings the insidiousness that Rucka has previously sewn into the Kobra operatives, then ratchets up the evil another notch. Kobra becomes believably real and threatening. Their opposition, however, is portrayed as heroic and just, seeking to save their foes as well as the victims of said foes. The members of the JSA that Trautmann spends more panel time with carry forth their voices as already established in "JSA" and "Justice Society of America".
This issue packs a great deal in without overwhelming the reader, offering details and characterization that are accessible to newly welcomed JSA readers. Of course, if you have some experience reading "Checkmate" or "JSA" or both, then the story has significantly more depth to offer.
That depth of story is given vision by Don Kramer, former "JSA" penciler. Kramer returns to characters he spent years with and it seems as though no time has past. Kramer draws these characters as though they were his characters and, in a sense, they are. With Michael Babinski on inks and Art Lyon on colors, the final printed page has a gritty, worn feel to it. This art team meshes nicely from the onset and continues to excel with every panel. Of course, the Gene Ha cover is the only way this cake could be iced, as only Ha could stand a chance of matching or exceeding the efforts of the interior art team. I did, however, find Ha's signature to be somewhat distracting on this evocative cover; it looks like Amazing Man is having a good laugh as he readies himself for battle.
This series offers an interesting cross-examination of faith in the DC Universe. One man without faith in a higher power, but the ultimate faith in his friends and comrades challenged by a man who has faith in his followers to continue to power him in his faithful mission. Cracks begin to form in the faith as Terrific crosses between the team he formerly led and the one he still holds a leadership role on. Burr, on the other hand takes the faith bestowed upon him and hides his true cause. As this story continues, I look forward to seeing Trautmann deepen the conflict between -- and within -- these two men.