Karate Kid Vol 1 #12
(January-February) January, 1978
"The 'Time' of Your Death!"
Writer: Bob Rozakis
Penciller: Juan Ortiz
Inker: Bob McLeod
Letterer: Milton Snapinn
Colourist: Anthony Tollin
Cover: Rich Buckler (pencils) and Jack Abel (inks)
Editor: Allen Milgrom
Mission Monitor Board:
Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Chameleon Boy, Sun Boy, Colossal Boy (1960s versions; cameos)
Major Disaster; his unknown partner
The story begins literally a moment or so after the last panel of the previous issue, in which Karate Kid has returned to 1977 after battling Major Disaster back int he prehistoric past. As he calls Iris back to him, he is blasted by an energy bolt of some sort and disappears. Iris turns back, thinking she heard him, but he's not there. Having decided that she needs to show Val that she’s better than that Princess (Projectra) of his, she plans to show him a new Iris, and goes to her appointment at the New York offices of S.T.A.R. Labs and their Test Centre.
Meanwhile, Karate Kid finds himself travelling through time, and comes to rest in what he believes is Smallville (based on a sign that he sees). The town is undergoing an earthquake, and Karate Kid is forced to leap over a crevice that forms. A building begins to collapse, but he manages to not be under it when it falls. Since there are no people around, Karate Kid thinks that he's in another of Major Disaster's test facilities. However, once he reaches the city limits, he doesn't find any walls or barriers of any kind. He does spot the true cause of the earlier earthquake - Superboy!
Thinking that Superboy has gone berserk and the town is empty as the people fled, Karate Kid attacks Superboy so as to get his attention and stop the destruction. Superboy doesn't recognize Karate Kid as one of his Legion teammates, and after taking a boot to the face, returns the Kid's attack with interest. The two continue to fight, the whole time Karate Kid trying to figure out why Superboy doesn't know him and why he is destroying Smallville. Using an arm fighting technique that he learned on Falkone IV, Karate Kid is able to momentarily block Superboy's vision with the rock that he throws at him, as it bears traces of lead, and then dives for cover in the hole that Superboy's earthquake caused. The Kid deals with his anxieties about facing off with the Boy of Steel.
Back in 1977, Iris is fast-tracked to be interviewed at S.T.A.R. Labs for a special test by Dr. Lewiston, who questions her motivations for joining the project at hand. She wants to prove to Karate Kid that she has what it takes in comparison to his girlfriend, Princess Projectra. Ominously, she is approved to move forward in the test process...
Back in the past, Superboy works around Karate Kid's hiding in a lead hole by using his super-hearing to hear Karate Kid's heartbeat and flying high enough to clearly see him from a bird's eye view. Karate Kid then starts to goad Superboy, to get him angrier and angrier so that he will be easier to defeat. After getting wrapped up in his own cape, Superboy gets so angry that he flings Karate Kid back into Smallville. Karate Kid manages to avoid being smashed against the wall of a barn, and then realizes that it, and the entire area, is in fact fake. He comes to conclude that this Superboy is a fake, too!
Elsewhere and elsewhen, Major Disaster is revealed to be responsible for this misunderstanding between the Boy of Steel and Karate Kid. He compliments his unseen partner for having the idea to let Superboy crush the Kid, and the method is genius of how he did it. His unseen partner presses a button, and says that it's time to assemble the rest of the "cast".
Karate Kid and Superboy have both calmed down finally, long enough to stop fighting and to exchange a few words with each other. Superboy tells Karate Kid that "the city" is a recreation Superboy built for the SRA (Scientific Research Associates, the precursors to S.T.A.R. Labs) to test the effects of an earthquake on a small town. Karate Kid admits that he must have misunderstood the whole situation, but when he offers Superboy a handshake he uses the opportunity to grab the Boy of Steel, and use a move he learned on Loback III, where police use the move to capture super-powered criminals, to capture the Boy of Steel in an arm- and headlock. Karate Kid still thinks he's a fake, as the real Teen of Steel would know who he is as they’ve been fellow Legion of Super-Heroes members for years. Superboy has every intention of busting loose from the Kid's hold, but a female voice states that it's Karate Kid who has made the mistake. Six members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, wearing their togs from the 1960s, are standing there, and say they’ve never seen Karate Kid before - and tell him to let go of Superboy before they take him apart! Definitely to be continued in the next issue.
This issue begins seconds after the previous issue ends, but we find ourselves in a very different New York City of 1977. Not only is there a brand new cover logo for the comic, but there is a brand new creative team on the book. New writer Bob Rozakis kicks the story off with a bang, and new artists Juan Ortiz and Bob McLeod hand in a more-than-capable job. The cover of the issue is by Rich Buckler with inks by Jack Abel, and it really a very good cover whose pencils don’t get lost too badly in the Abel inking.
It is clear with this issue that DC Comics was trying to sell this book as a super-hero one, not as a karate or kung-fu tie-in series. It worked, to be honest, because Bob Rozakis and editor Al Milgrom (who had just taken over the tasks on both this series and the Legion's own series) had a different vision and a new direction for where they wanted to take the Karate Kid series. Right from the very top of the very first page, DC was selling its new direction for their hero. Bob Rozakis was a long-time DC writer and editor's assistant, who was a major creative force at DC during the late '70s. He wrote Freedom Fighters, the Teen Titans, and several stories for several issues of Batman Family, for example. Due to the eventual fates of all of those titles his being put on a book was clearly not a good sign, but the fate of the Karate Kid title wasn't to be known yet for a few issues. One thing about Rozakis: his stories were generally straightforward and were more often than not fun.
The story itself is a well-written tale with an interesting situation: Karate Kid is hurled through time once more, and finds himself in Superboy's Smallville. The first time I read the story, I guessed the twist as to why Superboy didn't know Karate Kid, but there were some good things here. For one thing, the highlight of the issue is the fight between Superboy and Karate Kid. A lot of fans didn't like Karate Kid and didn't feel he belonged in the Legion. He proved that he did, as far as I’m concerned, back in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #346 when he tussled with Superboy in the old Legion Clubhouse to earn his membership then. However, I think he definitely earns his right by holding his own against Suoerboy (or at least a good copy of him) for 17 (!!) pages in the fight scene here. And he didn't do it this time out by using just his fighting techniques but also through some tactics and sheer will. The other thing that I liked in this issue was the introduction by Rozakis and Ortiz during the combat scenes of a neat thing: Karate Kid's Interplanetary Fighting Techniques. These are just side-bars outside of the story that explains how Karate Kid is fighting. Very cool!
From an artistic point of view, Juan Ortiz and Bob McLeod were like a breath of fresh air in their art work on the issue. The lines are clean, the inks are straightforward and don't mess too much with the pencils, and while some would argue that their work is less dynamic than Estrada's work on the series, I would disagree. Look at the amount of detail in Major Disaster's hideout and control room. Look at some of the backgrounds during the Superboy-Karate Kid fight scenes.
This issue marks the debut of the brand new Karate Kid logo... This issue is the first that brings in the brand new creative team of Bob Rozakis (writing), Juan Ortiz (pencils) and Bob McLeod (inks)... Under editor Al(len) Milgrom, the letterers and colourists will now be credited in every issue... Karate Kid's white costume elements are badly mis-coloured in a dark red tone in one panel on page 3... This is not the first time that Superboy and Karate Kid have fought, although that was under more controlled circumstances. This occurred in Karate Kid's first appearance back in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #346.
Next Issue: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #236