John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane
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Karate Kid Vol 1 #14

Another re-read of some classic Legion of Super-Heroes stories. This time out, the penultimate issue of the Karate Kid series.





Karate Kid Vol 1 #14
(May-June) June, 1978
“Diamondeth Is Forever!”
Writer: Bob Rozakis
Penciller: Juan Ortiz
Inker: Bruce D. Patterson
Letterer: Milton Snapinn
Colourist: Mario Sen
Cover: Rich Buckler (pencils) and Frank Giacoia (inks) (signed)
Editor: Allen Milgrom

Featuring:
Karate Kid

Guest Star:
Robin, the Teen Wonder (Dick Grayson); Justice League of America (Green Lantern II, Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman) (cameos)

Opposition:
Diamondeth (Iris Jacobs); Major Disaster, the Lord of Time (behind the scenes)


Synopsis:
The story continues from the previous issue. As Karate Kid arrives back in the 20th Century, the New York of 1977 to be precise, he is horrified to find Iris Jacobs, transformed into a diamond creature, on a rampage. Before he can act to stop her, Robin the Teen Wonder (Dick Grayson), who is passing through New York on his way back to Gotham City, arrives on the scene and is about to attack Iris, whom he calls Diamondeth. Karate Kid interferes, striking Robin and knocking him down. Before he can explain to Robin about Iris, the Teen Wonder attacks him, knocking him down. The two heroes exchange blows, but finally Karate Kid gets a chance to explain that Diamondeth is actually his friend, Iris Jacobs, and that while he doesn’t know what happened to her, he intends to find out. Robin agrees to help him out.

However, the two heroes first have to deal with a street gang that is taking advantage of Diamondeth's rampage to loot a series of stores. The gang, called the Rats, take offence to the heroes wanting to stop them, and attack the heroes. Karate Kid faces off against three of the Rats, and takes them down relatively quickly. Meanwhile, Robin tangles with another pair of the Rats, and also takes them out quickly. Karate Kid notes that he has respect for the fighter that Robin is, and that he’s going to like him. He says he should have looked Robin up when he arrived in the 20th Century, which baffles the Teen Wonder, but before he can explain, the police arrive on the scene, and Robin agrees to try and find the "diamond girl." Before he and Karate Kid can set out, Dr. Carl Teaberry from the S.T.A.R. Labs facility in New York arrives, and explains that Diamondeth is Iris Jacobs. She volunteered for an experiment in which a hydrocarbon serum was injected into her to see if humans could be adapted to living in a more polluted environment. Karate Kid blames him for what's happened to Iris, but Teaberry recognizes the hero and says again that she volunteered. Karate Kid realizes that he's right, but wonders if he's actually in love with her. Teaberry tells him and Robin that they can't figure out what went wrong, as Iris was the only one adversely affected this way.

Elsewhere, in a secret base, Major Disaster and the Lord of Time observe the events in New York City, and are pleased that Karate Kid is upset to learn that Dr. Teaberry doesn't know the cause of the transformation. The Lord of Time admits that he was the one who transformed Iris through the use of the hydrocarbon serum, that it is the least of what he owes Karate Kid for his interference. Major Disaster doesn't understand why the Lord of Time is attacking an inconsequential teenage hero such as Karate Kid, but the Lord of Time tells him that Karate Kid is the key to unlocking a kingdom for him, that will make him in truth the Lord of Time!

Back in New York, some time later, at an abandoned warehouse on the waterfront, his underlings inquire of King Rat why they brought Diamondeth to their lair. He explains that they can go on a crime spree with her that would literally open up the town. And she listens to him and does what he tells her to. He states that if that doesn't work, they can always cut up this million-carat baby. They actually consider doing so immediately, but before they can do anything else, the skylight crashes in and Karate Kid jumps into the warehouse. He attacks the Rats, and shatters an emergency axe that King Rat throws at him. Some of the others attempt to escape, but are met at the door by Robin, who takes them out easily. Karate Kid deals with the rest, and then the two talk about what to do about Diamondeth.

She takes the matter out of their hands, attacking Karate Kid and gashing his back with her clawed hands. It is obvious to Karate Kid that the woman inside the diamond body hates him. She attacks him, and Karate Kid merely attempts to contain her, since he's afraid that one of his blows might break off some of her facets. After he's thrown against a wall, Karate Kid tells Robin that they have to try "it". They strike her at the same time at two opposite stress points, and manage to immobilize her without breaking her into carats. Robin asks whether they should take her to S.T.A.R. Labs to see if they can reverse the process, but Karate Kid tells him no. He already told Robin the truth about where he comes from, and says that he's going to take Iris to the 30th Century, even though King Voxv told him not to return until his trial is complete. But Iris's life is more important.

Back in their hidden base, the Lord of Time gloats about this... "Superb! Precisely as I planned!" The story continues in the next issue.


Commentary:
And so we come to the penultimate issue of Karate Kid's own comic. This issue's story was a pretty good tale in which Karate Kid returns to 20th Century New York to find that Iris Jacob has undergone some serious changes as a result of the experiment she volunteered for at S.T.A.R. Labs and the interference of the Lord of Time. The story by Rob Rozakis has some good moments to it, not a lot of humour, but plenty of action. The scenes flow together very nicely and make for a cohesive whole and our hero faces some tough choices in his dealing with Iris's new form, Diamondeth, since he can't strike her or he might break her apart.

The inclusion of Robin the Teen Wonder to the story doesn't feel at all forced, though it is a bit too coincidental, but that's the way comics tend to be at times. Robin and Karate Kid work well together, though they do get off to a bumpy start. The two heroes share a lot in common, aside from their ages, and Robin's footwork is a match for that of Karate Kid, and his detective skills allow them to track down Diamondeth relatively easily. The two heroes make a few jokes while they fight the Rats, and that's all right since it's in keeping for both of them, but the encounters with Diamondeth are both kept serious which I appreciated. Diamondeth comes across cold as ice, as one might expect from a living being made of diamond, but the hatred when she faces Karate Kid in the warehouse near the end of the story is pretty clear and evident. That said, there’s nothing really said about Iris/Diamondeth’s motivations and goals, and she doesn’t speak throughout the story. Juan Ortiz and Bruce Patterson do a good job of conveying Diamondeth's emotions in their artwork, through her body language and the expressions on her diamond face. A job well done.

The presence of Major Disaster and the Lord of Time doesn't lend itself to any real advancement in the story, though we do learn that the latter is the one whose energy beam struck Iris in the previous issue and turned her into Diamondeth. The revelation that Karate Kid has a role to play in the Lord of Time's plan to ascend to seeming godhood was pretty good, though I have to wonder if we'll see this reach fruition. The story ends on a good note, with the cliffhanger as Val decides to take Iris to the 30th Century for a cure, even though King Voxv's orders that he not return to the 30th Century until his trial is complete were pretty clear.

Juan Ortiz and Bruce Patterson do a terrific job on the artwork here, and the panels are full of background and detail. Colourist Mario Sen combines with the artwork of the two to make Diamondeth stand out, her various facets reflecting different things in each part of her body, depending what's near her. Excellent stuff. The action sequences are crisp and full of movement, enhancing the story even more.

Finally, as mentioned above, this is the penultimate issue of Karate Kid's own series. The fifteenth issue of the series is the last comic as the book was cancelled. I’ll talk more about that when I discuss the last issue.


Final Notes:
Robin most likely appears here between his appearances in Batman Family Vol 1 #17 and #18.





Next Issue: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #240
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, long live the legion!, lsh
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