Friday, October 3, 2014

Requiem For Blok

Performing the  Eulogy: Anj

I reviewed 5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #3 last week and one of the biggest moments in the book was the death of Blok. While he does have a moment of total consciousness upon dying, he is dispatched rather quickly, blown to bits in one panel of the standard 9 panel page.

What struck me as I reread the issue for the review was how little I cared that the big guy died. And I remembered that it didn't strike me as a big deal the first time I read it, either. It was clear that this death was a way to let us get a measure of Roxxas. If he could kill Blok in one panel, he must be tough.

But is that all Blok was? A yardstick? A statistic?

Did he mean so little that even a grizzled Legion fan like me shrugged at his death?

And so I give you a Requiem For Blok.

Like many comic book characters, Blok had a turn as a villain when we first met him. There he is in the background of the cover of Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #253, a huge figure drawn by Joe Staton.

In a story by Gerry Conway, we meet Blok as a member of the League of Super-Assassins, a bunch of super-powered teens from the planet Dryad. Granted powers by the Dark Man, the League blamed a group of Legionnaires for the destruction of their home (when in actuality the Legion saved the people from a supernova).

The League singled out those Legionnaires and seemingly kill them.

And Blok takes part in the rampage, apparently killing Light Lass with a devastating right hook.

But throughout the issue and despite doing this, Blok seems reluctant to be part of the group. He isn't sure if revenge is right. He questions his blood-thirsty colleagues.

Indeed, the Legionnaires seem to be killed in the beginning of the second part in Superboy and the Legion #254, including Superboy.

But before he 'dies', Superboy calls on Brainiac 5 to help him. And at this point, Brainiac 5 is certifiably insane, actually residing in an asylum.

His psychiatric illness doesn't stop Brainy from putting together a team which almost too easily defeats the League. The team?? The Legion of Substitute Heroes!

But Blok seems to simply give up rather than fight. He knows what the League has been doing is wrong. And he should be punished.

It is here that we get a glimpse into the philosopher soul of Blok. 'He who sows the whirlwind, will reap a harvest of pain.'

Writer Gerry Conway wasn't done with Blok though. In Legion of Super-Heroes #272, the Legion is holding tryouts and one of the applicants is Blok himself. Having repented, and never really having his heart in the evil doings of the League, Blok wishes to make amends. In fact, he had earned a sort of trial membership before this story where he proved his worth by helping the LSH versus the Dark Man.

Perhaps the most notable thing about this issue is that art is by Steve Ditko!!

We learn Blok's origin. The humans on Dryad were settlers. Blok was one of the native life forms on Dryad, one of a race of stone. The settlers and the indigenous race got along. So here we see Blok with the other Super-Assassins before they received their powers.

This is something of a wrinkle on Blok's origin. He didn't get his power from the Dark Man. It is natural.

But look at that smooth faced young Blok. Isn't he cute.

The issue isn't all Blok's origin. He and the other applicants get pressed into emergency duty when the Starburst Bandits break out of jail.

We saw Blok's strength and invulnerability in this issue. Here we see another of his powers, the ability to deflect, or at times reflect, or at times negate others' powers.

In fact, I don't know if I can actually explain what his powers are.

Single-handedly stopping the bandits, he is granted membership in the Legion. It is a nice story of good triumphing over evil. As a villain turned hero, he should have been embraced by the Legion fans.

But Blok remained something of a non-entity for some time. Yes, he would appear here and there. And he did have that sort of gentle wisdom about him. But it wasn't until the Baxter series that he seemed to find his niche.

First off, he got something of a slick new look in Legion of Super-Heroes #13 by Legion artist Steve Lightle. (I mean, who didn't look good drawn by Lightle ... but still.)

So, Blok was now visually more interesting.

And Paul Levitz made him a little more appealing as a character. Even earlier than this, Levitz had set up Blok as Timber Wolf's closest friend on the team. And Blok seemed to thrive a bit as the straight man for Brin's more wild antics and seemingly dim-witted comments.

But even that friendship with Timber Wolf was not the most interesting turn for the character. Somehow his gentle spirit and graceful wisdom made him a perfect match as a companion for the White Witch.

Mysa was an introvert, shying away from the gaudier aspects of life in the Legion, and seemed drawn to Blok as a kindred spirit. Although we never saw displays of affection or physical intimacy, it is clear they were soul-mates. In fact, they often have very deep conversations, mixing in love, dedication, and philosophy.

In fact, it was Blok's purity that inspired Mysa to end the threat of the Magic Wars. It seemed like the two would live a life together in chaste love and deep meditation.

Villain turned hero.
Friend and fierce ally.
Chaste companion.
Gentle philospher.

He had enough interesting character traits that he could have been in the spotlight.
He should have been loved.

Instead, he ended up in pieces ... albeit in peace.

And so, let us raise a glass of Kono juice to Blok, our fallen comrade.

He lived a full life, even if we didn't notice.


  1. A Requiem for Blok. Fantastic. I'm enjoying this blog immensely.

  2. To Blok! A wonderful post, Anj.

    I always got the feeling that Levitz like Blok, but didn't really know what to do with him. The one storyline that did feature him, with him searching for any more races like his, never really went anywhere.

    I like the idea of Blok as Legion Archivist, sitting and watching tapes 24/7, since he wouldn't need to sleep, or gently reminding Timber Wolf that he still needs to update the Black Mace file from six months ago.

  3. I'm a fan of the 5YL period (actually a fan of pretty much every Legion period, to some degree), but the death of Blok is the one "black spot" on that storyline for me. Cool article. This blog rocks :)

  4. Thanks for all the comments.

    I do feel his death was a bit nasty and quick. But this *was* the darker 5YL.

  5. Poor Blok. Taken out like a punk by 5YL Roxxas. Ugh.