Monday, April 22, 2019

Karate Kid #8

Karate Kid #8 
"Pandemonium....Panic.....and Pulsar!"
script by David Michelinie writing as Barry Jameson
art by Ric Estrada and Joe Staton
color by Liz Berube
edited by Denny O'Neil
cover by Mike Grell
cover date: June 1977
review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
dedicated affectionately to Glenn "Continuity Kid" Walker

I never went to any, but I hear that those live stadium shows in the late Seventies were just fab.
Here we have Karate Kid and Pulsar fighting on stage as Police Commissioner Banner tries to keep out of the way and three DC Comic staff members frantically take notes. Groovy, baby. Mike Grell back on double-duty pencils & inks clearly enjoys what he is doing. Looks like this is going to be another all-out action issue in the mighty Marvel DC manner!

The story opens as Pulsar uses his energy rod to destroy part of the Washington Square in Central Park. This gets Karate Kid's attention, as he happens to be walking through Central Park with Iris. It also gets our attention, as well as the attention of  Pulsar's intended target, Eddie "The Lip" Vacarro. I've never been a hired assassin or a serial killer, but it seems to me that it would be more efficient to get in and get out without calling any attention to yourself, ya know? But like I said, what do I know?
Karate Kid interrupts Pulsar and then fights with him for a page. Take a look for yourself, the fight choreography is pretty good, but I happen to be wearing my Grumpy Old Man socks today, so I feel compelled to point out that there aren't any backgrounds in any of these scenes. I understand the artistic reason for not including any in maybe the first panel, but after that a few shadow lines or sketched in onlookers would have gone a long way to make the fight more realistic. Is this just me?
After Pulsar goes all "taser" on the Kid,  he rushes off and actually uses his head. Instead of blasting Eddie directly, he uses his energy rod to scare a horse into running over Eddie. This sequence isn't very graphic, but it is probably the most well-done page in the book. Of course, look at it again with an artist's eye and see how the lack of backgrounds in panels 3 and 5 takes away from the impact of the drama, while panel 4 (the extreme close-up) does not suffer from this at all.
His assignment complete, Pulsar runs into an alley and uses his power rod to transform into a business man, who Karate Kid rushes past. Karate Kid says that disappearing is "impossible," but need I remind him that he knows people who have super-speed, and that he has experienced teleportation himself. So he's forgetting his own experiences. Be that as it may, police catch the Kid and arrest him for Eddie's murder and for his land-lady's death from last issue.
At the city morgue, however, Emily Geichman isn't dead after all. In the very next scene, we see a very frustrated Police Commissioner Banner have to release Karate Kid.
These pages are my least favorite parts of this issue. The morticians look too cartoony, and their reactions to Mrs. Geichman still being alive are played for laughs. Then on the very next page, we are expected to believe that the Police Commissioner of New York City is having a temper tantrum because he can't arrest a man for not committing a murder? This is ridiculous.
Thankfully we switch scenes, and now join Ben Day at his suburban home. He is weary from his work when a business associate named Kade arrives to make Pulsar take on another "assignment." For our benefit he reviews their relationship so that we know that Ben Day is secretly Pulsar and is the Mob's hired assassin. Kade has some device he is using to extort Pulsar to continue working for them. Reluctantly, Day must accept the assassination request.
That night, Commissioner Banner is addressing the Police Officials Convention at Madison Square Garden. His speech targets assassins like Pulsar and vigilantes like Karate Kid; as he speaks, Pulsar himself shows up. It turns out that Banner is Pulsar's next target.

At Karate Kid's apartment, Mrs. Geichman is home. She tells Karate Kid and Iris about how his television almost killed her; we know it is not a normal TV set, but he promises to her that he will have it looked at. She swears off TV, so turns on the radio instead. All three of them then hear the news about Pulsar holding Banner hostage, so Karate Kid rushes off.
At Madison Square Garden the police are having trouble breaking through the doors to the room where Pulsar is holding Banner. However, Karate Kid shows up and bursts through using his, uh, super-karate? I think this is one of the reasons many Legion fans aren't a fan of this character. He's supposed to be the Legion equivalent of Batman, right? But if a steel door is resistant to four police-men throwing a battering ram against it in panel one, are we really supposed to believe that Karate Kid can simply kick it down?!?
For all the nice comments I had for the earlier fight choreography, this re-match between Karate Kid and Pulsar is a mess. First of all, the door seems to be on the opposite side of where Pulsar is standing; until it is suddenly behind him. Until the lighting panel is suddenly behind him again. Maybe the assumption is that the lighting panels go the entire length around the room, but anyone who has ever been in a theatre knows that isn't true. Besides, just look again at panels 2 and 3 above: Pulsar is clearly standing in front of one of the lighting panels, as Karate Kid bursts the door down..... behind him....?!? 
Pulsar fights Karate Kid, clearly choosing NOT to kill Banner even though he had several opportunities. Karate Kid knocks him into the lighting control board, one one of the sides of the room, but then rather than let him die he kicks him clear....because, you know, that's a thing. Legionnaires' boots have rubber soles to ward off electrocution. Doesn't everybody? Then Pulsar revives and kicks Karate Kid in the groin and escapes. Read the panels for yourself:
"Taken by surprise, Karate Kid tumbles over his opponent's head...." This implies (to me, atleast) that Pulsar didn't just use a typical judo move to flip Karate Kid over him. Maybe I'm wrong, but it sure looks suggestive to me.

This leads to another good scene, where Karate Kid notices Ben Day again and thinks maybe there is a connection with Pulsar. But before he can do anything to follow up on his suspicion, he is approached by the Police Commissioner. In one of the cheesiest scenes I have come across in a serious Seventies comic, Commissioner Banner reluctantly tells Karate Kid thank you for saving his life. They look like they're going to be bosom buddies from now on.
When Karate Kid returns to his apartment Iris meets him and "confronts" him with a kiss. It's clear that she wants to try to win the Kid away from Princess Projectra....who just so happens to be in his apartment, waiting for him!
To Be Continued!

Would it be unkind of me to say that the last page (hell, the last panel) is the best part of the book? To me the whole idea of Karate Kid voluntarily choosing to live in the 20th Century just seemed wrong. He had enough to prove in his present (the 30th Century) so the idea that he would turn his back on the Legion in general and on Projectra in particular never sat right with me. Later, after I found out that this isn't really what he was doing at all (spoiler alert?) it made more sense.....from a character point of view. Why DC editorial chose to play it this way is beyond me. Anyway, my point is that with the re-introduction of Princess Projectra, I know that the end of this particular plot-line is coming to an end.

What is NOT coming to an end is penciller Ric Estrada's insistence on including Birds' Eye View of scenes. I counted nine times this issue when he pulled this artistic style. You be the judge to see how many, if any, really necessitated that point of view:
 Pulsar after being knocked down by Karate Kid (page 2)

 Pulsar shooting at/toward the horse and carriage (page 4)

 At the morgue (page 6)

 Commissioner Banner's HUGE office (page 7)

 Ben Day's living room (page 8)

Karate Kid's apartment---twice! (pages 10 & 11)

 Pulsar blasts at Karate Kid (page 13) 

Karate Kid confronts Pulsar (page 15) 

What do you think? In my opinion, three of these are worthwhile: the establishing shot that Pulsar is shooting at the horse and carriage and not at Eddie; the confrontation between Ben and Kade (their individual body language is well done: Kade is playing darts while Ben is livid); and lo and behold, the final confrontation scene that shows the door is NEXT to the lighting panel after all! I stand corrected in my previous comment that the room's geography was wrong. (It's just bad!) And speaking of bad layouts, look again at Karate Kid's apartment scenes....are you not first tricked into thinking that the Kid is going out the window behind the couch, instead of the window we don't see in the first panel?

Fights Per Issue:
Pulsar vs. Karate Kid (round 1): 6 panels
Pulsar vs. Karate Kid (round 2): 12 panels

Karate Comments: 

Science Police Notes:  
  • This is the last Karate Kid cover illustrated by Mike Grell. 
  • Although the colorist Liz Berube is credited in this story, the letterer is still uncredited.  
  • The main letter in this issue's letter column is by Mike W. Barr, who would soon join the DC staff. He is most famous for creating/writing CAMELOT 3000 and Batman And The Outsiders. 
  • Pulsar returns next issue as well as in The Brave & The Bold #198, making him one of Karate Kid's more "lasting" adversaries. 
This issue has not yet been reprinted.


  1. I appreciate the commentary on these - I haven't seen them before. I just can't justify hunting them down to collect when I have space issues dealing with the books I already have.

    There are places where the art is really good. And there are places where it's, well, at least it's not Don Heck. Now and then a well drawn fight sequence will pop up. That's nice. And then the one will be draw that just possible with comic book physics. Case in point - the judo throw (tomoe nage) Pulsar supposedly used to flip KK. With that foot position there would have been insufficient leverage to flip KK and KK should have landed squarely on the bad guy's chest. I do like that this art team does remember that KK isn't just another Caucasian. The acrobatic stuff is cool, but did he leave his flight ring in the 30th century?

    1. It was established in the first issue that Karate Kid's flight ring broke or was somehow disabled....but that seems odd to let it go like that. That means he's back in the Seventies without any means of calling for help or for a ride.