Monday, June 17, 2019

Karate Kid #10

Karate Kid #10 
"Death Duel on Orando"
script by David Michelinie writing as Barry Jameson
art by Ric Estrada and Jack Abel
colors by Carl Gafford
edited by Denny O'Neil
cover by Al Milgrom (penciller) and Jack Abel (inker)
cover date: Oct 1977
review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
dedicated affectionately to Glenn "Continuity Kid" Walker

This time around we're talking about the issue of Karate Kid that I always wanted but never had.

As a wee lad I saw a few issues of Karate Kid for sale but never picked them up because 1. I wasn't a fan of the cartoony art and 2. I wasn't a huge karate/kung fu fan. It has something to do with my father and brother loving that stuff and me not wanting to get into their "realms," but the point is, I was never out there searching for any issues of Karate Kid. 

Until this issue.

I saw a copy of the cover in the Amazing World of DC Comics #14 (which I devoured, as it was all about the Justice League) and saw that the Legion of Super-Heroes was guest-starring. So I did in fact bug my father to take me to the local 7-11 and to the local grocery store and to the local drug store but no, I never did find a copy of this book!

Flash forward to today, when via the Legion of Super-Bloggers time bubble I have access to scanned versions of this series and I FINALLY read this story 40 years after it was published.

The cover by Al Milgrom and Jack Abel looks more exciting than several of the more recent issues, but maybe that's because it features the Legion in classic "he's got to fight his own fight!" poses, or maybe it's because I actually recognize Black Dragon from Superboy/Legion #210. Either way, the cover works and I would have SO bought this comic if I had ever had the chance.
Karate Kid and Princess Projectra have steered their time bubble back from 1977 to 30th Century Orando in order to investigate King Voxv's urgent request for help from last issue. In doing so, they have brought back the two-page opening spread. I am not an expert on time travel, but I always kind of thought that the time may change but the location doesn't? So for these Legionnaires to leave Earth in 1977 but re-appear on Orando strikes me as being something new. Anybody out there know for sure if time bubbles could re-locate themselves?

Anyway, as soon as they land they are set upon by non-Orandian men with lasers. Princess Projectra tries to help but finds that her illusion-casting ability is gone. Convenient, that. Karate Kid therefore earns his salary for the month as the star of the show, taking down the goons. As he is taking care of the welcoming committee Princess Projectra is taken prisoner. did the armed goons know that the Legionnaires would appear where they did?
Projectra has been escorted to her father's castle, where we learn that the Black Dragon has taken over the planet in an attempt to bring Karate Kid there for a face-off to the death.

Uh....hold on. A Japanese crime boss with very good karate abilities somehow decides to take over an entire planet in order to lure a non-powered Legionnaire into battle!?!? Why didn't he just take some hostages in Tokyo and alert the media? That would have gotten Karate Kid to Black Dragon A WHOLE lot easier than this plan did. Besides, how did the Black Dragon know that King Voxv would have any means of contacting Karate Kid!? Wouldn't you have surmised that the king would have called his daughter, who would have called the Legion, and they would have taken care of him without ever getting Karate Kid involved? Methinks the plot is a tad too thin....

But let's go with it, "because comics."

Karate Kid climbs up the castle walls and breaks in, facing down the Black Dragon and some of his goons. When he appears to have the upper hand on the Black Dragon, the villain grabs a weapon. He is about to shoot Karate Kid when the Legionnaire says something about "honor," and Black Dragon doesn't press his advantage. When the Black Dragon seems confused as to what he should do next Airn, an advisor to King Voxv, suggests that the two fight in the traditional Orandian way, over a pit of liquid oxygen. Instead of, you know, just going back to fighting right then and there. Black Dragon agrees to extend the story another eight pages.
As they move out to the icy grotto, Black Dragon calls out to one of his lackeys, calling him "Hong Lo" by name. In 1977 maybe nobody really paid attention to Japanese culture (this was the era when occidental David Carradine had just recently played a Chinese man on TV, after all) but "Hong Lo" is NOT a Japanese name. I'm not sure if it's sounds like a Chinese first name to me, but I'm not sure. Maybe Polynesian? By the way, the Black Dragon's real name is given as "Sadaharu," which is not a typical Japanese name, either. I think his creator, Jim Shooter, was going for "Sadowaru," which IS a well-known Japanese name, but somehow messed it up.
And while we're on the subject of racial identities etc, is it just me or do the guards who Karate Kid takes out as soon as he climbs into the castle appear just a tad stereotypical in their appearance? It's reprinted above; what do YOU think?
So as the protagonist prepares to battle the antagonist, we see Princess Projectra and her father imprisoned in one of their own dungeons. When pressed by his daughter, the king admits that it was he who ordered Karate Kid to return to the past of 1977 in order to prove himself worthy as a commoner to marry the princess. Projectra is taken aback, as she (and we) finally understand why Karate Kid has cut himself off from his life in the 30th Century.
Confident that all that Karate Kid has done has been for her (and their) benefit, Projectra finally starts acting like a Legionnaire. She uses her flight ring to take care of their guard in a nifty bit of will power. She then rushes off to the Black Dragon's space ship in order to call in "the cavalry," although I thought she could have just used her flight ring to do that, too.
As Karate Kid and the Black Dragon are fighting over a geyser of liquid oxygen, someone spills a brazier over the ice bridge, melting it and trapping them. Before the Black Dragon's men can throw over a rope, the Legion arrives and plows into them. Believing that he will now die regardless, the Black Dragon attacks Karate Kid again. The Legionnaire tells him that if they work together they can both live, which convinces him. They manage to form a human bridge to the land and save each other.
Back at the castle the Legion takes the Black Dragon and his men away, and Princess Projectra puts Airn under arrest for spilling the brazier. Superboy, Cosmic Boy, Lighting Lad, and Phantom Girl appear in this story, but only Lightning Lad has any dialogue (below). He is also wearing a strange version of his uniform (see panel 1 below).
King Voxv thanks the Kid for his assistance, then orders him back into the past. Projectra then confronts Karate Kid about his feelings, and he admits freely that he is in love with her! 
I'm not exactly sure how 12 year old Russell would have enjoyed this story, but he probably would have enjoyed atleast parts of it. Adult Russell likes it very much, especially compared to the some of the earlier dreck that was published in earlier issues of this book. Finally we get every character acting the way they should be, doing the things they should be doing. That last page in particular reads very well, as Projectra gives Karate Kid an opportunity to admit that he was unfaithful, but him admitting whole-heartedly that he is in love with HER.

I have never been a fan of Jack Abel's inks, and partnered with Ric Estrada's cartoony style, I'm especially not impressed. The art this issue seems serviceable, but lacks any "epic-ness." How many troops does Black Dragon bring with him? It looks like he managed to take over THE ENTIRE PLANET with a dozen guys? This is ridiculous. Orando should have put up more of a fight just with sheer numbers, as it's supposedly a pretty big place.

Also, I really don't like the look of dread on Projectra's face in this panel. I think she should have been acting more regal and more like a Legionnaire. Not a fan.

I won't mention Ric Estrada's annoying habit of having "birds' eye view" panels on most pages. I will simply say that according to my count, it happens again on eight pages. That's clearly half of the story. I didn't even mean to do it, and I managed to reprint atleast six of the examples in my review!

Fights Per Issue:
Karate Kid vs the initial group of goons: 2 pages
Karate Kid vs the castle guards: 2 pages
Karate Kid vs Sadowara the first time: 2 pages
Karate Kid vs Sadowara the second time: 2 pages
NOW we're talking. This FPI (Fights Per Issue) ratio is great! This is what I think of when I hear the term "all-out action issue."

Karate Comments: 
There was no letters' page in my scanned version of this issue. Was there one in the actual comic? If there was, is someone will please scan and send it to me and I will include it.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Although Carl Gafford is credited as the colorist, no letterer is mentioned.  
  • No Queen is mentioned or shown. The King's mother and nephew are not shown, either, although they will play large roles in Projectra's battle for the throne in Legion (v2) #288.   
  • Karate Kid mentions that the uniforms of the armed warriors he fights when he and Projectra first arrive look familar; the uniforms resemble the uniforms the Black Dragon's men wore in Superboy/Legion #210, a nice piece of graphic continuity. 
  • Kung Fu, starring David Carradine, was broadcast on ABC-TV from October 1972 thru April 1975. 
  • Princess Projectra and Karate Kid continue their story in Superboy/Legion #231
  • This is the last issue written by Barry Jameson aka David Michelinie. 
This issue has not yet been reprinted.

The reason for Karate Kid's "voluntary" banishment to the 20th century is finally explained, which makes the last nine issues of this series more compelling. He did it for love, to prove to King Voxv that he was "worthy" of marrying the future queen of Orando. 

1 comment:

  1. I can't say why they named the guy "Hong Lo", but I can't help but notice it would sound suspiciously similar to "hung low". (I dunno, maybe Michelinie was just trying to see what he could get away with, for his own amusement? Stranger things have happened.)