It’s safe to say that 12- or 13-year-old Barry was completely unprepared for what you’re about to see. Even though the cover of the comic book in question featured an arm dangling from above with blood dripping from it, I was still caught off-guard by the absolute brutality of what followed.
Never fear, O Protectors of Children: I wasn’t scarred for life. I was just shocked. And you know what? That’s exactly what I should have been, given that I was witnessing a supervillain by the name of Nemesis Kid pummeling the heroic Karate Kid to death with his bare hands. Shocking and brutal, sure, but also some damn fine storytelling.
Spare, economic dialogue. Perfect artistic pacing. I’ve found myself over the years trying to replicate the feeling of this moment with prose, but I don’t think it’s possible. Another testament to the unique strengths of comic books as an artform.
(Oh and BTW: Karate Kid actually rises up on the next page, grabs his flight ring from Nemesis Kid, and proceeds to sacrifice himself by using his dying strength to blow up a device that is holding the planet hostage. So from the depths of craven evil we rise to the noblest impulse…and deny Nemesis Kid his final triumph. God, I love comics!)
(From Legion of Super-Heroes #4, November 1984. Story by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen. Art by Steve Lightle and Larry Mahlstedt.)