Monday, February 18, 2019

Karate Kid #6

Karate Kid #6 
"Showdown With Commander Blud!"
script by David Michelinie writing as Barry Jameson
art by Ric Estrada and Joe Staton
edited by Denny O'Neil
cover by Ernie Chan (penciller) and Mike Grell (inker)
cover date: Feb/March 1977
review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
dedicated affectionately to Glenn "Continuity Kid" Walker

Here we are again folks, slumming in 1977 New York City with a few members of the Legion of Super-Heroes. According to the cover (again by Ernie Chan and Mike Grell instead of Grell solo) Karate Kid has been "driven WILD, the Kid stalks friend and foe ALIKE!" It would have been nice if the Legion had appeared on the cover, too, cuz, you know, the Kid kicking Commander Blud in the face as illustrated here is just not that dynamic. Plus the lack of any background at all doesn't make this one of the better covers.
Karate Kid has busted free from Commander Blud's mind-torture machine, now stark-raving mad. He is about to kill Blud when four members of the Legion of Super-Heroes suddenly arrive and save Blud's life. Cosmic Boy blasts Karate Kid away from Blud, but the Kid is still under the influence of the torture machine. While Cosmic Boy, Sun Boy, and Star Boy tries to calm their friend and Princess Projectra does nothing, Commander Blud takes the opportunity to slip away in the confusion. Arguably Princess Projectra is the most powerful Legionnaire in this group, but she does absolutely nothing. I was never a fan of super-heroines being re-active rather than pro-active, and this issue is a great example of how not to write the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Cosmic Boy finally uses a ku-jiu nerve pinch on Karate Kid, stunning him. Cosmic Boy then orders Sun Boy to help him tie-up the henchmen and for Star Boy to free the woman (Iris Jacobs) but they ignore his orders and do the opposite. Don't believe me? Check out panel two below: Cosmic Boy clearly tells Dirk to tie-up the henchmen and  Thom to free the girl. Obviously, both writer David Michelinie and editor Denny O'Neil don't know enough Legion trivia to write this stuff. For those of us who DO know their Legion trivia, it is a jarring moment. When Iris is freed, she is shocked to see Princess Projectra cradling Karate Kid in her arms; she runs off before the Legionnaires can stop her.
This scene is probably the best drawn bit of the book. We get the full page panel of Princess Projectra and Karate Kid, and then somber coloring and lonely point-of-view for the last two panels.

After Karate Kid wakes up, Cosmic Boy explains to him that they arrived because their time-scanners detected someone trying to tamper with the time stream. Karate Kid is angry that the Legion interfered, because they let Commander Blue escape.
Karate Kid angrily storms off, refusing to work with them in capturing Commander Blud. Princess Projectra and Cosmic Boy agree that something strange is going on with him, but they can't worry about Karate Kid while Commander Blud is still free and potentially tampering with the time stream. This really bothers me, because as far as we've seen, Commander Blud hasn't done any tampering with the time stream AT ALL. How can asking a future person for secrets about the future be considered "tampering"? I just don't understand how or why the Legion showed up here as the cavalry. It was just too convenient for me.

Meanwhile, in Karate Kid's apartment his land-lady enters it to clean. She activates the mysterious monitor device in his room, thinking that it is a television set. A voice responds back to her, telling her that she has "seen too much" and blasts her. Now, for those of you who have NO idea what the monitor is or why Karate Kid is *really* back in the past, this scene may suggest a different plot direction and you may be disappointed when you find out who is on the other end of this monitor. On the other hand, for those of us who DO know the secret of this monitor, I was confused at the murder of the land-lady. This was the most interesting/fascinating scene in the book for me.
Elsewhere, Karate Kid is feeling sorry for himself when a mechanical eagle swoops down and carries him off. It drops him into the Hudson River, right into an underwater domed area where instantly, robotic guards to to refrain him. He makes quick work of them, but is stopped when Commander Blud shows him that he has captured his Legion friends. I'm relatively sure there was an editorial edict that there had to be so-many fight scenes in this book, but this particular battle between Karate Kid and the robots just leaves me cold. Also, this is a great place to point out artist Ric Estrada's annoying (to me) tendency to pull waaaaay back for certain scenes. Why in the world is fifth panel below SO far of a bird's eye view? Go back to each of the reprinted pages this month and you'll see a similar layout on each of the pages. It makes sense for when Iris Jacobs is walking off from Cosmic Boy, but the other examples just seem odd or, worse, lazy.
Blud tells Karate Kid that he has the Legionnaires in a stasis field preventing their powers from harming him. He is about to press a button on a remote control device to dissipate them, unless Karate Kid tells him secrets of the future. I don't know about you, but I have a huge problem with this scene. First of all, how does Commander Blud even know what the Legionnaires' powers ARE in order to come up with some technology to stifle them? Cosmic Boy's powers are biological in nature (he was born with them) so it seems like they would be impossible to stop. Likewise, Princess Projectra's powers are magical in nature, and as we are about to see Blud doesn't succeed in stopping them. Lastly, I'm NOT a fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes being defeated and captured OFF SCREEN by a guy with no powers and an inability to spell.

By the way, if these four people are friends of Karate Kid, who is from the future, is it assuming too much to think that these four people might ALSO be from the future? Especially if you overheard them talking about the future before you escaped from them a few pages ago? So....couldn't you have tried to extort these four people, and leave Karate Kid out of it? Ah, never mind.

Karate Kid rushes forward to Princess Projectra, apparently distraught. Managing to pull himself together, he then reluctantly agrees to tell Commander Blud about World War III. Suddenly, the dome protecting Blud's hide-out cracks and river water begins to flood in. As Blud is distracted, Karate Kid rushes to him and destroys his remote control device, freeing the Legionnaires. What Commander Blud saw was, of course, an illusion cast by Princess Projectra.
Commander Blud orders his robotic troops to attack. As the Legionnaires stop him, Karate Kid chases after an escaping Blud. Karate Kid is afraid that Blud will escape unless he does something drastic, so he karate-kicks the wall of the dome, bursting it for real. He then rides the wave forward to Commander Blud and knocks him out. Princess Projectra, who in theory could have made Blud think he was escaping as he ran smack dab into Karate Kid's fist (numerous times), does nothing.
With the capture of Commander Blue, the Legionnaires tell Karate Kid that their mission to the past is complete; however, Karate Kid tells them he can not go back with them into the future. Although pressed, he won't explain why. The Legionnaires depart in their time bubble, and Karate Kid waits for the authorities to take Commander Blud into custody. These two panels are well done, as we see that the Legionnaires KNOW that something is wrong with their friend, but for some reason he can't talk to them. Several years later it was revealed that Timber Wolf was one of Karate Kid's good friends. It would have been nice if he had been along on this trip to try to get his pal to explain. As it was, I don't think Star Boy had any dialogue in this story whatsoever.
As Karate Kid heads home, dejected and alone, he runs into Iris. She apologizes for running out on him earlier, and they start to chat, as friends, until they get to his apartment. The police then arrest Karate Kid for murdering his land-lady! After a very disappointing two-parter with another easily forgotten menace, we get a turn into soap opera.....but atleast this looks like it will be something different than what we've seen so far. To Be Continued!

Fights Per Issue:
The Legionnaires : 1 panel
Robots: 5 panels
The remote control device: 2 panels
Commander Blud: 1 panel
I'm not keeping track, but this is a pretty low FPI (Fights Per Issue) ratio. There's a lot of talking in this issue without a whole lot of anything worthwhile going on.

Karate Comments:

Science Police Notes:  
  • No letterer or colorist was credited for this story. 
  • Several pages had reversed color plates, making Princess Projectra's red uniform purple and Karate Kid's yellow collar blue.  
  • The Legionnaires' appearance chronologically falls between Superboy/Legion #220 (Slave Makers) and #221 (debut of Grimbor). 
This issue has not yet been reprinted.

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