Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #272

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #272 (Feb, 1981)
title: "The Secret Origin of Blok!"
writer: Gerry Conway
penciller: Steve Ditko
inker: Frank Chiaramonte
letterer: Todd Klein
colorist: Bob LeRose
editor: Jack C. Harris
cover: Jimmy Janes & Dick Giordano
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Wildfire, Sun Boy, Dawnstar, Lighting Lad, and new member Blok

Legion applicants Lamprey, Nightwind, Crystal Kid

Starburst Bandits

On Earth, Wildfire is working with Blok to try to understand his power set and its limitations, but Blok is shrugging off Wildfire's energy blasts as if they were tickles. Sun Boy and Dawnstar then bring in the other three applicants for membership, Lamprey, Nightwind, and Crystal Kid.
Then Dawnstar shows them the Legion obstacle course, saying that the goal of the test is "to not be crushed." Blok, going first, simply walks right through it, destroying the obstacle bars. Wildfire goes off to get a repair crew, leaving the applicants to talk amongst themselves. They encourage Blok to tell his story.

Several years ago, Blok's people lived on a world they did not name. Then humans arrived to settle it, calling it Dryad. As settlers continued to arrive, the indigenous rock people continued to hide in plain sight, watching and waiting. Eventually they revealed themselves to the human settlers, and the two races lived together in peace for several years.
At the prison located on the Himalayas, the Starburst Bandits imprisoned there are planning on breaking out. Coincidentally, a scientist is reporting to the warden that the "weapons" that the Bandits used in their last raids are not weapons at all, but conduits. The Bandits have stored up enough energy in their bodies to make their escape, killing a guard in their get-away. They steal a few space ships and fly off towards Metropolis.

At Legion head-quarters, Wildfire is complaining to Lightning Lad about Blok's abilities and qualifications. Lightning Lad tells Wildfire that if he is worried about Blok's courage and skill, he should plan a test for that, and not for brute strength. Wildfire agrees, and heads back to the applicants.
Elsewhere, Blok continues his story about Dryad, and how when its sun was about to go Nova six Legionnaires showed up to help rescue the inhabitants. However, Blok and his friends were too young to understand what was going on. They incorrectly thought that the Legion was somehow responsible for their planet exploding. With that hatred of the Legion forefront in their minds, the Dark Man gave his friends super-powers and turned them into the League of Super-Assassins. Blok, not getting any additional powers from the Dark Man, was able to shrug off his mind-control when faced with evidence that the Legion was innocent.
Wildfire hears the end of Blok's story, and apologizes to him for being such a jerk. Suddenly, Lightning Lad arrives to tells everyone that the escaped Starburst Bandits are at the Metropolis Space Zoo, probably out to retrieve their space horses. With only three Legionnaires available, he decides to send the four applicants along with them on the mission. Unfortunately, one flight ring at normal parameters cannot lift Blok, so Sun Boy and Dawnstar have to help carry him away.

When the heroes arrive at the zoo, the Bandits blast Sun Boy and Wildfire's suit, leaving Dawnstar alone. She has no choice but to drop Blok, who tells her that he is sure to survive the fall. The other three applicants, thinking that this is a test for membership, are easily shot down by the Bandits. Blok, after climbing out of a Thanagarian Devil-Beast's cage, approaches the Starburst Bandits. He stands up to their blasts, then repels the energy back at them, knocking them out.

Back at Legion head-quarters, Blok is inducted into the Legion of Super-Heroes.

I remember reading this issue when it first came out and HATING it. When I sat down to re-read it for this review, its mediocrity came flooding back to me in a wave of averageness. Consider this:
1) Although Wildfire appears to be seriously reviewing Legion applicants, we never learn what ANY of the applicants' powers are, including Blok's. 2) The Starburst Bandits are held at a prison in the Himalayas, but in Legion (v2) #270 the prison where the League of Super-Assasins is being held was on Mount Everest. Is this the same prison? If not, WTH? If so, why not mention it? 3) The warden mentions the Science Police and something called "the Metro Police." Is this a real group!? I don't remember them being mentioned before or since. 4) Why weren't the rock people of Dryad moving around BEFORE the human settlers arrived? 5) Women settlers were supposed to stay in the kitchen? WTH? 6) The children of Dryad think the Legion blew up their planet....but didn't any of the adults tell them the truth? How stupid are they? 7) Similarly, the children who grew up to be the LoSA appear to be quite young when the sun explodes, yet the Legionnaires are all in their current uniforms. I know time moves weird in comics, but....come on! 8) Speaking of that flashback, the original story featured Phantom Girl, not Shadow Lass....written and edited by the same guys who wrote and edited THIS story! Dick Giordano accidentally drew Shadow Lass on the cover of S/LSH #254, and now she's retro'd into the story instead of Phantom Girl.  Come on, guys, sheesh. 9) Where and or How did these six kids meet the Dark Man? THAT'S the story I wanted to read, either here or last issue. 10) Although the Starburst Bandits are not speaking Interlac, Blok somehow understands them when he confronts them.

So....yeah....this issue is pretty bad. Add to all the plot holes the fact that we get Steve Ditko's cartoonish and simple art and you have a total stinker of an issue. I could go on, but I don't think I will.

On a side note, I always wanted Dryad to be Mordan, the world that exploded in Superboy/Legion of Super-Heroes #231. It bugged me that the plots were so similar, but nobody seemed to notice. Plus Tharok was in that Mordan story. It would have made sense to loop back to that. Oh, well.

As for Blok joining the Legion....well, there are two reasons I never warmed to this character. One is because I never really understood what he could do. According to the Legion Constitution, each member must have atleast one unique, natural ability. So what is Blok's? It appears that he is a living shield, but that is not unique. He tells the Legion that he absorbs mass, but then he later repels the Bandits' energy back at them. Should he have been called Reflecto? I eventually grew to appreciate Blok's personality, but I never understood why he was allowed to join.

The second reason I was an initial Blok hater was because I felt he was shoe-horned into the Legion by Gerry Conway just so that he could have a home-made character in there. There were already 21 active members, plus several recurring supporting characters, and yet Conway and editor Harris chose to add *another* badly defined character to the mix? And at that, a Thing-Hulk visual type instead of, say, an actual alien? Or maybe a Black woman? Or an Asian? I'm all about adding members to the Legion, but Blok as a representative of diversity always struck me cold.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Nightwind (nee Nightwing), Lamprey, and Crystal Kid were all created by Legion fans. They first appeared in Amazing World of DC Comics under the "Legion Outpost" banner. 
  • Nightwind, whose original name was Nightwing, was created by Robert Harris of Allentown, PA. She is able to project mental "stun" bolts as well as teleport, but only when in darkness or shadow. She appeared in AWoDCC #12. 
  • Lamprey was created by Scott Taylor of Portland TX. She is able to breathe underwater and can drain the life force from any living thing. She appeared in AWoDCC #14.
  • Crystal Kid was created by Robert Cohen of Calgary, Alberta. He has the power to turn anything or anyone into crystal. He also appeared in AWoDCC #14. 
  • The first group of settlers of Blok's homeworld say that it is logical to name the planet "Dryad." However, that is the Greek word for "tree nymph," and the art by Steve Ditko does not show an abundance of trees on the planet. In fact, it looks bare, so...."dry"? 
  • There are no non-Caucasian settlers shown.  
  • The comment referencing the United Planets' rule on settling is referenced as saying that no planet with indigenous human life can be settled. Surely the term they meant instead of "human" was "sentient."  
  • The Starburst Bandits first appeared in Superboy/Legion of Super-Heroes #252
  • Lightning Lad hands out flight rings to the four applicants and asks them to battle the Starburst Bandits, then refuses to accompany them on the mission. 
  • The Legion flight ring at its default settings is unable to lift Blok. Eventually his flight ring will be re-programmed to match his mass. 
This issue has been reprinted in Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol 2.

Blok joins the Legion at the end of this story. Not counting members who were dishonorably discharged, Blok is Legionnaire #31. He is active member #22.


  1. See, I really liked this story at the time. As mentioned, I'd fallen out of collecting the Conway run, and I'd guess I probably got this one mostly for the Dial H for Hero preview. I liked Blok (there's probably something to one's first new Legionairre collecting, which is why there need to be new ones every few years), and I liked this version of Wildfire is the one that really sold me on the character.

  2. I think that Blok falls into the "There are no bad characters, only bad creators" department, because later on Paul Levitz did great work with him.

  3. I think it was later clarified that Blok's unique ability was that he could absorb many forms of energy (which he demonstrated in "Legion of 3 Worlds" by absorbing Mordru's magic and his Shadow Demons). Due to his inorganic brain, he is also resistant to mind control, like when Esper Lass's powers had no effect on him during the battle with the LSV.

  4. Or it could just be invulnerability under the superboy loophole, never been completely sure how that worked. (I mean, I joke that Ultra Boy can serve alongside Mon-El because he has the ability to see through lead, but I think that the loophole is just broad enough to fit any number of members through it.)