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Karate Kid Vol 1 #3

Can't seem to sleep tonight, so figure I'll post up another Legion of Super-Heroes reread. Back to the Karate Kid stuff...

Karate Kid Vol 1 #3
(July-August) August 1976
"The Revenger"
Writer: David Michelinie (writing as Barry Jameson)
Penciller: Ric Estrada
Inker: Joe Staton
Letterer: Uncredited
Colourist: Carl Gafford
Cover: Mike Grell (signed)
Editor: Joe Orlando

Karate Kid

The Revenger

The story begins with Val Armorr/Karate Kid accompanying Iris Jacobs to a bank. He’s been staying at her place for the past few weeks and has finally received a Good Samaritan donation for saving the city from Major Disaster (in the last issue). Iris wants him to start a savings account so that he can eventually get a place of his own. While they wait in line, the latest super-villain, the Revenger, makes his appearance. Karate Kid and the Revenger fight, and the Kid is beaten pretty handily as the Revenger uses a whip that he wields in a metallic arm, and knocks Karate Kid down long enough to accomplish his goal. He proceeds to the office of William Grant, the bank President, and kills him. When Karate Kid arrives, he finds the body and a note that tells how this is the first death, and the jeweller will be next. Several blocks away, on the rooftop dwelling with pigeons in cages, a greenhouse, and small shack and a Universal Concept sign, we learn that the Revenger is actually Dr. Norman Grimes. Grimes went to work for a think tank called Universal Concept and developed a heavy-metal formula that he eventually perfected. The company sold the work to make war materials, and Grimes was terminated and vowed that he would have his revenge on those evil men for their perfidy. Still having access to the laboratory, he fashioned a deadly whip made of the same metal and a power-arm to enable him to wield that weapon for justice. With the banker dealt with, that just leaves the jeweller and the head executive who wronged him.

Meanwhile, Karate Kid and Iris go apartment hunting and they find a “quaint” place above Duffy’s Bar. He agrees to rent the place from Mrs. Geichman, but as he’s signing the lease, news of the Revenger’s second attack comes on the news. In a terrific sequence of Karate Kid jumping from the apartment window down to street level, Karate Kid sets off after the villain walking across cars and taxi cabs in his eagerness to get to the site of the attack. Arriving on the scene, Karate Kid sees the Revenger leaving the smashed windowed jewelry store. However, he is interrupted in his pursuit by a group of looters who decide not to let him get in the way of their easy score. The criminals are no match for Karate Kid, despite their numbers and one of them being a skilled martial artist, but they delay him just long enough for the Revenger to have cleanly made his escape. Entering the jewelry store, he finds another body (presumably the jeweller) and another note that talks about killing the leader and that will settle the account. Karate Kid decides to take the note to the police. Norman Grimes pays another visit to his pigeons, and gleefully tells them that the account will be settled and justice served.

Later that day, the Revenger goes to the office of the Administrator of Universal Concept, D.F. Spencer, to kill him, only to find Karate Kid waiting for him. Spencer is in protective custody; when the police ran the names of the Revenger’s other victims, the only thing they had in common was Universal Concept. The two fight once more, the heavy-metal whip taking its toll on Karate Kid’s body, and the Revenger flees to the roof where his pigeons are. When Karate Kid’s attack on the Revenger threatens the birds, the villain goes berserk. In one of his attacks on Karate Kid, the Revenger brings the Universal Concept sign down. In a heroic effort to save the birds beneath it, the Revenger allows some of the birds to escape, but is killed when the sign topples to the ground.

You know you’re in for a difficult story when the smash page of the issue shows you Karate Kid and Iris waiting in line at a bank. When compared with the action scene of the comic’s cover, a great piece of work by Mike Grell, this is an absolute let-down and you have to wonder what the writer was thinking when he did this for the splash page. The super-villain of the story, the Revenger, shows up at that bank rather quickly and the violence begins almost immediately. While there’s a bit of interest in the villain to start with, he quickly turns out to be stereotypical for this period in the Silver Age comics: the lonely deranged scientist, whose only friends are the pigeons he keeps atop the building, seeking revenge by building himself a colourful costume, a bolo-whip weapon with a gimmick, and a power arm harness to wield it. Why the Revenger? Because he’s out to kill the banker, the jeweller and the head executive of the think tank company he worked for who wronged him. *sigh* This cookie-cutter villain and cookie-cutter plot are the work of Barry Jameson, with very little Karate Kid involved here. One could have inserted any DC mid-level hero (such as the Creeper or Blue Beetle) instead of Karate Kid, and the story would have worked. I will say that I did like Karate Kid’s leap to the ground from the apartment window, the running across car tops, and the fight with the gang of looters. However, Karate Kid seems to be too comfortable with the 20th Century slang, trading quips with the bad guys in a Spider-Man-like fashion. His familiarity with some present day things, and obliviousness to others is far too uneven. And even though we were promised David Michelinie this issue, we get his pseudonym, only this time without Paul Levitz collaborating, although he was the associate editor at the time. One thing I found curious about this was that despite Jameson and Michelinie being one and the same, the letter column insisted they were two different people, with Jameson continuing on as regular writer while Michelinie pursued other projects. Talk about lying to the readers about matters, and in the letter column, too! Shame on you, DC Comics! In the final sequence, Karate Kid finally catches up to the Revenger and the two have their big fight, but the villain actually dies saving his beloved pigeons. Karate Kid has no hand in this tale and it all seems rather pointless. What does Val do at this point? What is he thinking about the Revenger’s death? What happens next? How does he explain what happened on the rooftop? That last would have been interesting to see. This issue is indicative of the problem with the Karate Kid title in the end. This was a plain, very ordinary story with a cookie-cutter villain. And there were too many of these types of stories in the series for it to have lasted.

Next Issue: Superboy starring The Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #219


John Kahane

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