Here's the basic Ben 10 concept: the show revolves around 10-year-old Ben Tennyson, his same-age cousin Gwen, and his grandfather Max. At the start of their summer camping trip, Ben is nearly hit by an alien pod that falls from space and crashes next to him. When he examines it, he finds a mysterious, watch-like device, called the Omnitrix, stored inside. The device attaches to his wrist and gives him the ability to transform into different alien heroes, each with their own unique powers.
Bandai picked up the toy license for this Cartoon Network program, and has been producing action figures for about a year. I steered clear of it just out of moderate annoyance that they were making all of the aliens that Ben could turn into, but not Ben! They finally got around to the kid at the start of 2007. So once I got him, I started to round up the aliens, which is proving to be quite a gradual process.
Let's consider a few of these at this time...
FOURARMS - This guy is one of my favorites. He looks big and he looks mean. His profile includes the following information:
Fourarms is a Tetramand. A massive species with four powerful arms, the average Tetramand is 10 feet tall with a dense armor-plated skin. Built for battle, Tetramands can take punishment as well as they can dish it out. With their incredibly strong legs, a Tetramand can leap blocks at a time at a height of several stories. While not necessarily martial artists, Tetramands have developed an arsenal of specialized maneuvers that makes use of their prodigious physiology. A favorite move is the "Big Smack" - a sonic wave produced by clapping all four hands together at the same time, which stuns an opponent into submission before a blow can even be landed. Even for their massive size, Tetramands aren't very fast or coordinated. Besides making them a huge target, the Tetramand's size also makes it difficult to get inside buildings or walk down a street without knocking things down. Bred for strength, much of the damage they inflict is often purely unintentional, which makes Tetramands almost as dangerous to their allies as they are to their enemies.
Their homeworld is Khoros, a dusty and barbaric world where might makes right and survival is a constant struggle. Due to constant conflict, the planet's culture has long devolved, turning from a confederation of thriving city states into a scorched and boundless wasteland. Nomadic tribes ruled by bloodthirsty warlords ceaselessly roam the landscape, seeking out relics of Khoros' past glory, all in hopes of rediscovering the secrets that will gain them advantage over their enemies.
Needless to say, the figures in the 4" scale "Alien Collection" aren't entirely to scale with each other. Ben is just under 3-3/4" in height. Assuming he's the average height of a ten year old boy, he'd be around 4-1/2 feet tall or maybe a little taller. The Fourarms figure is around 4-1/2" in height, so there's quite a discrepancy if this guy would be ten feet tall in real life, but then that would undoubtedly blow the scale -- not to mention the price tag -- of the figures.
Fourarms is exactly what his name implies -- a four-armed alien. He has red skin, four eyes, a massive upper body, two huge upper arms, and two slightly smaller lower arms. Even his legs, arguably his smallest portion, are powerfully built.
Like a lot of the aliens Ben turns into, he retains something of Ben's appearance. His shirt is identical to Ben's, although his trousers are black. The symbol of the Omnitrix appears on his left shoulder.
The figure is well articulated, but a little limited in some respects. The figure moves at the head, arms, legs, and knees. The upper arms have elbow articulation, but the lower arms do not. As a curious tradeoff, though, Fourarms' lower wrists swivel, whereas his upper arms' wrists do not.
I've noticed that on a lot of the Ben 10 figures in this size range, the articulation is somewhat variable. But then again, so are the figures themselves. They also don't always live up completely to the articulation shown by the prototype figure pictured on the back of the package. This is something that also happened in Teen Titans, and I found it incredibly annoying there. It's a little less so here, simply because of the greater weirdness of the characters involved, as opposed the more consistently humanoid look of the Titans.
In Fourarms' case, the prototype shows evidence of having not only elbow articulation in all four arms, but swivel articulation as well, and in the legs above the knees. This is a bit of a disappointment, certainly, but also not entirely surprising. It's hardly the first time Bandai has cut articulation, probably to save costs.
And it's hard to complain about the figure. Bandai makes excellent action figures, some of the best on the market, really. Fourarms is a very well made figure, with what I would still have to define as above average articulation, and he's got a very cool look to him, as well.
All Ben 10 figures in this size range come with a collectible lenticular card, circular, showing a head shot Ben gradually transforming into the alien. The back of the card has a short profile of Fourarms which reads: A four-armed massive species, the average Tetramand is 10 feet tall. Because of their size, they aren't very fast or coordinated, making them easy targets. With their strong legs, they can leap blocks at a time at a height of several stories.
He also comes with an "Animation Disc", which looks like a miniature View-Master reel, and is meant to be used with the "Alien Laboratory" playset. But you can still see the images if you hold the disc up to a light and don't mind a little eyestrain.
Fourarms, like I said, is definitely one of my favorites.
DIAMONDHEAD - Another very cool alien, and another fairly muscular- looking fellow. His profile includes the following information: Diamondhead is a Petrosapien. Petrosapiens are crystalline beings whose bodies are formed entirely out of opaque gemstones and whose rock-hard physiologies make them all virtually invulnerable to physical attack. While jewel-like in appearance, Petrosapiens are no pretty boys. Their diamond-hard bodies make these fearsome warriors incredibly tough. Shards of the razor-sharp crystals jut out at numerous odd angles from their heads and bodies, discouraging physical contact, and also act as powerful weapons that can turn a car into confetti in a matter of seconds. Combined with their increased strength, Petrosapiens' shredding appendages can be especially devastating. Living prisms, Petrosapiens can refract light and beam-based weaponry, channeling them through their bodies and projecting them back at their source. Petrosapiens are particularly vulnerable to sonic vibrations. While a stereo blast might cause them to splinter, certain ultra-high-pitched sound waves can cause them to shatter - and no glue in this galaxy or the next can put a Petrosapien back together again.
That doesn't sound very pleasant. On the other hand, an entire species that probably hates boom boxes and hip-hop can't be all bad. Their homeworld is described as follows: Petropia is a craggy, geode-like planet where silicon-based beings evolved to build a complex society of separate underground kingdoms. While there are several different gem-based races, from ruby to emerald to sapphire, each with its own distinct abilities and culture, most Petrosapiens now coexist peacefully. After several centuries of warfare, a giant hole was ripped in the sky, revealing a universe far beyond Petropia's heretofore self-contained existence. As its recently enlightened inhabitants have now begun to turn their focus off-world, the rest of the galaxy holds their breath, waiting to find out if these crystalline warriors will wage war or come in peace.
It's worth noting that one of the "enemy" figures available in the Ben 10 line this year is a generic Petrosapien.
As for Diamondhead, he's big, but he's not as big as Fourarms, even though an actual height is not listed for the character. He stands about 4-1/4" in height, and has just a little trouble standing up because he's pretty top-heavy. The figure clearly has a lot of upper body strength, and absolutely massive crystalline arms, with relatively small legs. His "skin", or surface, perhaps, is a very pale turquoise in color. His head is sort of triangular shaped from the front, with a jutting lower jaw, and two yellow eyes. His uniform is an interesting variant on Ben's clothing, in that it looks more like a super-hero costume, in that it is apparently tight-fitting, but is black on one side and almost entirely white on the other, except for a bit of black at the top where the Omnitrix symbol appears.
In keeping with his species, there are two large crags jutting out of the top of his back, and two smaller crags further down. The figure's sculpt is very well done, especially the individual fingers. They're not articulated, but they are separate from one another.
Diamondhead is articulated at the head, arms, legs, and knees. The prototype picture would seem to indicate that he was originally to have articulation at the waist, and upper leg swivels. I don't think anything could've given elbow articulation to those massive arms without really interfering with the design.
As with all the figures in this line, Diamondhead comes with an Animation
Disc, and a Lenticular card which summarizes his background as
Diamondhead is definitely a cool entry in the line.
XLR8 - Say it quickly with each individual letter or number as a syllable and you get what this guy is about. XLR8 is a Kineceleran. His profile includes the following information: Elfin in appearance, with long hair, blue skin, pointed ears and oversized feet, Kinecelerans live their lives in a constant rush. No sooner are they born than they rapidly approach adulthood with little time to stop and ponder the consequences. Gangly and naturally awkward, Kinecelerans are speedsters, able to reach speeds of more than 500 Earth miles per hour. This extreme speed comes from manipulating friction, making them able to run up sheer walls and create huge stores of static electricity that can be re-directed, often with devastating results. While Kinecelerans can run fast, they're certainly not warriors. They are not built for battle nor do they have the disposition to stop and strategize. Kinecelerans often must learn from mistakes such as the fact that they can't run on non-solid ground like mud, ice and especially water (which causes a major shock from the static buildup). At the height of their velocity the most adept Kinecelerans are able to enter the mythical "speed zone", an entirely different temporal dimension where the rest of the world stops and reality takes on different rules. The biggest threats to Kinecelerans are magnets and charged pulses, which can completely throw them off course, causing them to lose footing and spin perilously out of control.
Their homeworld is described as follows: A world of violent electrical storms rapidly orbiting the sun, everything on Kinet is accelerated. Days are compressed into minutes and lifetimes are spread over weeks. Due to the ever-changing nature of their environment, Kinetan society is forever in flux. Although the inhabitants remain constant in their highly charged hyperactive nature, it is said, like lightning, that no return visitor to this world ever experiences the same place twice.
The figure certainly lives up to the description of his race. Blue skin, rather gangly in appearance. He doesn't have long hair, but I suspect that may be concealed underneath the helmet the figure appears to be wearing. XLR8 has an elongated head, narrow green eyes, a slender body, and frankly looks like an alien kangaroo from the waist down. He has a huge striped tail, and very strange legs with feet that either end in or look like they're grasping spherical wheels. Imagine one of these hypers roller-blading. I sort of think that's what you've got here. His legs have two joints each, one at the knee, and a lower leg joint like some species of animals. His narrow arms end in three-fingered claws.
XLR8's costume is mostly black, with a white stripe down the front with the Omnitrix symbol dead center. The figure is articulated at the head, arms, legs, upper knee joints, and the tail. He does not stand up easily on his own -- not with those feet -- and it helps him to balance to pose the tail somewhat downward and use it as a tripod along with the feet. Then he'll stand.
XLR8 is the only alien figure I've seen this far that comes with an accessory other than his Animation Disc and Lenticular Card (Ben came with a skateboard, but he's no alien). XLR8 comes with a visor that can be fitted over his face. This is a very small piece, I suspect easily lost, and frankly the figure looks better without it. I personally recommend putting it in a Ziploc bag along with the discs and cards. XLR8's card reads: Kinecelerans are speedsters, able to reach speeds of more than 500 Earth miles per hour. Their biggest threats are magnets and charged pulses, which can completely throw them off course, causing them to lose footing and spin out of control.
One additional note, is that some text on the official press kit that none of the other sections mentioned, describes XLR8's people as "lizard-like". It doesn't specifically say they are reptilian, but it's an interesting note. The sentence actually reads: "XLR8 is a super-fast, highly intelligent lizard-like alien that can manipulate friction for super speed. When Ben is XLR8, he can run at speeds approaching 500 mph and even go straight up walls" I wonder if that high intelligence also transfers over. Maybe not. In a comic book ad for the Ben 10 animated series, Ben transformed into XLR8 so he could get to the local comic book shop in time for its weekly shipment.
A cool figure, though. The arms are a litte too preposed for my liking, although it doesn't appear as though elbow articulation would've ever been a factor, although at least they're well positioned for running poses, which is what this guy does.
HEATBLAST - I was going to say that this guy looks like an alien version of the Human Torch, but the way that head looks, maybe Ghost Rider would be a better comparison. Not quite as horrific though. It's a slightly obscure comparison, but maybe he's closer to the "Age of Apocalypse" version of Sunfire from that particular X-Men series.
Heatblast is a Pyronite (can't say a species name like that surprises me), and his profile includes the following information: Because of the extreme heat of their world, Pyronites have had scant contact with other alien species. With little to distract them, their lives are spent perfecting an almost magical power over their surroundings. They are masters of fire, from which they can wield amazing results. Pyronites can fashion fire from their hands and mouths into many forms, which can be projected or hurled upon their enemies. Naturally convective, Pyronites can also absorb both flames and heat, making them able to put out a fire as easily as they might start one. The beings of this world do not respond well to water or other fire retardants. While small amounts might simply turn to steam, large bodies of water can extinguish a Pyronite - permanently.
Great, so this guy gets to visit Earth every time Ben transforms into him, a planet whose surface is something like 3/4 water. He must love that. As for his homeworld:
Of all the homeworlds in the galaxy, Pyros is unique in that it is actually a fully functioning sun. Pyros is a wide-open landscape of endless natural wonders: Infernal plumes erupt miles into the atmosphere, and raging rivers of molten lava cut massive swaths across the fire-filled tundra. Magma based, all of its inhabitants are composed of a flame-like energy. Drawing strength and nourishment from an almost limitless power source, this world's inhabitants are in need of little else.
Heatblast's appearance, carried over into the figure of course, borders on the creepy. It's also pretty far removed from the others in one important aspect. Except for the appearance of the Omnitrix symbol on the chest, there's no indication of the black and white pattern that seems to carry over into the costume design of some of these aliens, based on Ben's own shirt. Heatblast isn't the only character like this, but he's one of the more noticable as such.
The figure's head has a sort of high-tech skull-like appearance, surrounded by flame. Here's where the "Ghost Rider" image almost works. The body has a lava-like appearance in a manner of speaking, dark red in color (including the face), with cracks in it revealing a bright yellow core, no doubt the flame-like energy that these beings are based on. This dark red atructure gives way at the head, hands, and feet.
The figure has less severe proportions than some of the other figures, although the arms are still fairly large, and the legs a little smaller than might be considerd "normal". The figure has excellent articulation, at the head, arms, elbows, legs, and knees. he figure is only slightly taller than Ben, standing about 4" in height, and some of that is flame. Again, one has to assume that these figures are not to scale with each other. Not unusual for some Bandai lines. They did the same with their 3" Teen Titans, and I suspect cost concerns are the main reason behind it.
Heatblast comes with the Animation Disc and Lenticular Card, of course, and the card reads: Master of Fire, Pyronites can fashion fire from their hands and mouth. They are able to absorb both flames and heat, making them able to put out a fire as easily as start one.
The press kit information adds: Heatblast is basically living fire, able to project fire and absorb heat. When Ben is Heatblast, he can put out a fire just as easily as he can start one.
On the whole, these are four very cool figures (no offense to Heatblast with the use of the word "cool") from an impressive concept created by some of the best names in the comics business. I intend to continue to collect the 4" Alien Collection as I see them. The other nice thing about them is how affordable they are. One of these figures is generally under $5.00 in most places. That's not a price range you see much in the action figure aisle anymore.
One other note -- none of the designs are particularly horrific. There's unquestionably some weird stuff in here, not so much in these, but in a few of the other designs, but there aren't any aliens in the Ben 10 concept that I would regard as giving some kid the type of nightmares, and I'm pleased about that. You can create a bizarre alien without it looking overly horrific in the process.
There will definitely be future reviews of more Ben 10 Aliens. In the
meantime, if you're already a fan of the show, you should definitely
buy the figures. If you haven't seen the show, check it out. It's a
cool concept that works pretty well. And then do round up a few of the
toys. Bandai has done a good job with these, and the Ben 10 Alien Collection
definitely has my recommendation!