Karate Kid Vol 1 #2
May-June (June), 1976
"The International Dooms of Major Disaster"
Writer: Paul Levitz and David Michelinie (writing as Barry Jameson)
Penciller: Ric Estrada
Inker: Joe Staton
Cover: Mike Grell
Editor: Joe Orlando
Mission Monitor Board:
Mon-El, Brainiac 5, Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, Sun Boy (cameos) (all in flashback)
Major Disaster and his men; Neo-Nazi group Nurike (minor role)
The issue begins as the school day wraps up at PS 38 in lower Manhattan. Karate Kid attempts to get into the school to find Iris Jacobs, the teacher, but the security guard is resistant to this. Iris comes out, heading for home, and calms the guard, Charlie, down and then asks Val to walk her home. She doesn’t believe that he comes from the 30th Century, and Karate Kid explains where and when he’s from (with a brief shot of the Legionnaires training), but even after showing her his Uni-Charge card from the future, she diligently and politely continues to disbelieve him. Before they can continue their chat, a tidal wave rushes down the street, threatening to engulf them, but Karate Kid grabs Iris and nimbly leaps with her to the upper ledge of a nearby building. The villain responsible for the flood is Major Disaster who issues the ultimatum that the United Nations must vacate its headquarters in the next three hours, or face total annihilation - as will anyone who interferes in his plans. Karate Kid leaps onto Major Disaster’s platform, but his first attempt to stop the villain is highlighted by Master Disaster bringing down a meteor on the hero, and though he smashes it to pieces in fine high-flying kick style, Karate Kid ends up all wet, falling into a large water barrel on top of a building. As he emerges, Master Disaster’s men await him, armed with futuristic rifles. Needless to say, the goons are no match for Karate Kid. However, when the police arrive matters change, as his story is believed and the media verifies that he is, in fact, Karate Kid from the 30th Century. Meanwhile, there is no move on the part of the U.N. to accede to Major Disaster’s demands, and in their headquarters, the red-shirted neo-Nazis of Nurike, led by Carstairs, are disappointed as they want to drive the U.N. out of the States to enforce their “Americans for America” policy. However, Master Disaster says that since they’ve paid him 1 million dollars, he’s going to make sure that a turn towards violence will do just that! Elsewhere, Iris rescues Val from being harassed by the press, and they get into a taxi and head to her place. As an earthquake, caused by Major Disaster’s shock-wave machine, begins that threatens to destroy the city and plunge the U.N. building into the East River, the taxi almost goes into a fissure. Karate Kid races off towards the building atop which sits the device, telling Iris to stay there, but Iris disobeys him and follows after. Entering the building by the balcony, Karate Kid confronts Major Disaster before he activates the final phase of the sonic trembulator, but the Kid tells the villain that he can stop him before he even touches the button. This is true, but the arrival of Iris distracts him, and Major Disaster activates the device. Karate Kid grabs Iris and leaps out of the building, hitting an eave down below and landing safely in the street. Telling Iris to stay put this time, he heads into the streets, placing himself between the U.N. buildings and the rapidly growing crevasse. Relying on his instincts, Karate Kid unleashes a devastating kick that creates a massive counter-shock wave that balances, then stops the terrible seismic activity. The kick is so powerful that it ripples back towards Major Disaster and his terrible device, and the villain is seemingly killed when the device and the building it’s in explode! Iris arrives on the scene, and asks if he’s okay. Val tells her he’s fine, but is right back where he started: he has no place to stay. Iris takes him by the arm, and leading him away, says that yes, he does.
This was the second issue of Karate Kid’s own magazine, and to be honest, I had my doubts about the viability of the comic series as a whole. While the Kid is interesting in his own right, martial arts will only get you so far, even if it is every single martial art in the 30th Century. And as this issue demonstrates, the line between Karate Kid’s abilities being super-powers and trained, learned abilities that must constantly be honed not only blurs but firmly cracks (no pun intended) by the end of the issue. The writing on this story is...meh. I guess I’ve been spoiled by the tales of Jim Shooter and even Cary Bates in the main Legion stories, not to mention the artwork of Dave Cockrum and Mike Grell in the current Legion stories. Barry Jameson was a writer unfamiliar to me, though it would turn out years later that I learned that it’s a pseudonym. Initially for the collaborative work of Paul Levitz and David Michelinie; however, that collaboration only lasted for the first two issues, if I remember correctly, though David Michelinie would continue to write the Karate Kid series for another seven issues or so. To be honest, while both had greatness ahead of them, this stuff is not Levitz’s or Michelinie’s best work by far. This is highlighted by the two battles with Major Diaster in the issue. The first is the one that counts, to be honest, and is a cool scene even with the Kid kicking the meteor to bits. When he fights the henchmen, Karate Kid (or rather the writer) demonstrates some of his martial arts knowledge and even does some wise-cracking like Spider-Man does during this period. Karate Kid seems to be getting the hang of the 20th Century. However, the second fight at the end is anti-climactic in so many ways, and then there’s the problem I have with it, one that will plague the rest of this series of Karate Kid adventures. Major Disaster has a machine that will send a shockwave to destroy the UN building, plunging it into the East River. Okay, that’s fine... But when Karate Kid super-kicks the ground and stops the shockwave with his own? Umm, no. Val’s abilities are martial arts of all kinds, but he doesn’t have super-powers like that. It’s a fun sequence, of course, but it’s *not* Karate Kid and that ruined the whole story for me at the end. The artwork in the issue by Ric Estrada and Joe Staton, is to be honest uninspiring and doesn’t bring across the action feel that the series is trying to evoke, though some panels are better than others. I’m still not sure what to think of the villain in the story. I had a passing familiarity with Major Disaster from the other DC comics that I’d read, but didn’t know him all that well. I know that he first faced Green Lantern and also the Flash, and knew their identities, and it took both of them to bring him down. I also know that he was a mean badass during his heyday in the DC universe, and he is in this story. It’s an interesting choice, to put the martial arts-based hero against someone who uses devices to trigger disasters, and you’d figure that Karate Kid was going to be outmatched. And he is...and yet against all the odds, Karate Kid triumphs over the villain, though I didn’t believe for a moment that Major Disaster wad dead after the explosion of his earthquake device. Karate Kid’s explanation of his origin was intriguing, but erroneous. He doesn’t know what a comic book is, but has a credit card from the future to show Iris. Interestingly, the Uni-Charge card expires on June 30th, 2948. The Legion, at the time the story was written, are operating in 2976, so this card had to be expired before Val was even born? Umm, right...and even Iris doesn’t buy this. Another disappointment with the story is that we don’t see anything of the neo-Nazi red-shirts, Nurike, after a three-panel sequence. They hired him for 1M dollars, and to be honest I wanted to see more of them since it all made Major Disaster’s motives a bit more suspect. The rescues of Iris Jacobs in the story merely serve to cement that she is very much a damsel in distress at this point, and a meddling love interest for Val that our hero is oblivious to. I also want to know where the heck Princess Projectra is during all this, you know, the woman that Val loves?
Next Issue: Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #217