With the continued success of the Cartoon Network series BEN 10, having completed its fourth season and having produced a live-action made for TV movie, it's no great surprise that the toy line from Bandai has also continued.
However, many of the newer figures have been remakes of existing aliens, often in some sort of action pose demonstrating their powers. These have not been of particular interest to me, and I have not been adding them to my collection.
But a new version of the lead character himself, Ben Tennyson, recently was added to the mix, as were two new aliens, and they were interesting enough that I did decide to acquire them.
I want to hasten to add that this new version of Ben, and the new aliens, are not part of the new sequel series, "Ben 10: Alien Force", which has debuted on Cartoon Network. This is the original Ben.
Ben Tennyson is, of course, the central character of the Ben 10 animated series. He is a typical ten year-old boy -- he plays video games, rides his bike, and sometimes gets into mischief.
During a walk one day, Ben finds the Omnitrix, an alien device which latches to his arm. Unable to remove it, he uses its powers to become a super hero, and he finds the job trickier than he imagined, especially with the evil alien warlord Vilgax pursuing him relentlessly to retrieve the Omnitrix.
No matter what bizarre form Ben takes, inside he is still the same 10- year-old boy. He is something of a glory hog, and also tends to be a sore loser, especially when it is his cousin Gwen who outdoes him. Ben is not above using the Omnitrix to pull pranks, even during urgent situations.
In spite of all this, Ben is good-hearted and will stop at nothing to protect his family or anyone in danger. Even when not in alien form, Ben's resourcefulness has saved himself and others from many a dire situation, especially when the Omnitrix cannot activate or does not provide him with the form he originally wants.
It certainly helps that he has his grandfather assisting him. Max Tennyson, unknown to his grandchildren at first, has previous experience with Vilgax and the threat presented by the alien menace. He is able to help direct Ben in his use of the Omnitrix and keep his mind focused on the events and adventures at hand.
The cartoon proved to be a considerable hit. The alien creatures that Ben could transform into were original and interesting, the animated series has proven highly entertaining and well-written, and the concept was no doubt helped by having a number of well-experienced comic-book personnel involved in its creation.
The toy line from Bandai has been similarly popular, even if it took them a while to get around to actually making a figure of Ben Tennyson himself. They finally produced one in early 2007. This was Ben in his best known form. Ben's typical appearance has the boy wearing a white short-sleeved shirt with black trim -- which is a color scheme reflected in a fair number of the aliens he transforms into -- and somewhat baggy olive green trousers.
Now, we have a new version of Ben Tennyson. This one is dressed in a super-hero costume, if not a particularly well-fitting one. So -- where did this come from?
One of the second-season episodes was entitled "The Galactic Enforcers". The summary of this episode is as follows: When a pair of bounty hunters plan to use raw minerals from Earth to build a devastatingly powerful bomb, Ben joins a group of alien super heroes, the Galactic Enforcers, in order to stop them. However, all is not well with the new group, as a small gift of Ben's chocolate is all that's needed to weaken the group's leader, Ultimos. This causes his second, Cynaptak, to take the lead in order to try showing Ben up. However, the Enforcers' tactics involving 'commanding presence' backfire on them, and nearly getting Tiny hurt in the process. However, after Ben goads Cynaptak into rescuing Tiny from a landslide, Ben and the Enforcers put aside their differences to finally arrest the bounty hunters.
Sound like a real pack of winners. Apparently they were impressed enough with Ben at some point to give the boy an official super-hero uniform, although one might hope that the Galactic Enforcers might find a good galactic tailor out there someplace. The costume, while a capable enough design, isn't an especially good fit, at least not if we're going for the usual "tights" look.
The costume has a cool enough look to it, though, and manages to be a distinctive design -- no easy feat given the vast population of super- heroes in existence these days. The costume has a yellow-gold shirt, with a metallic gold emblem with a large white symbol in the middle of it, white gloves, a metallic gold belt with a blue and white insignia on it, white pants, metallic gold boots, and a white cape.
Actually, the costume looks pretty good on Ben, even if it's not the greatest fit in the world.
As to the figure, it's a cool 4" scale Ben, and the costume, and its less-than-superheroid fit, are reflected rather well. The headsculpt is excellent, and is a new headsculpt. This Ben Tennyson figure has a somewhat more serious expression on his face than the original, which was smiling. The costume is nicely reproduced. The cape is particularly amusing. It clips into the figure's back and over the shoulders, but has been molded in such a way to look as though it's dragging the ground a bit behind Ben.
This actually proves rather useful. The figure, given its small size, is obviously somewhat lightweight, and the cape makes him a little back- heavy. The extra length of cape that appears to be "dragging" helps prop the figure up so he can stand on his own. It's worth mentioning that the figure can stand up on his own without the cape, as well.
Articulation is good. The Ben 10 figures have tended to have somewhat variable articulation. This is certainly not unheard of for Bandai. They did the same thing a bit with Teen Titans, and it's definitely been an attribute with Ben 10. Then again, when you're dealing with making figures of some of the freakish and non-human forms this kid can turn into, articulation is likely to get a little variable, regardless.
Ben is poseable at the head, arms, legs, knees, and an upper-leg swivel on both legs. Okay, so he's not a Marvel Legends figure. That's still not bad for a figure based on a cartoon character, and that is right around 3-1/2" in height.
This Ben Tennyson is part of a new assortment of figures in the line called "Battle Version". As I said earlier, this assortment tends to feature aliens in greater action poses or demonstrations of their powers than before. The figures come with display bases and trading cards. Many of these cards have "hidden" printing on them which can be revealed with a special viewer that is part of the base, and then one can go online and download aliens that are actually crossbreeds of existing Ben 10 alien heroes.
The back of the package shows the heroes Fourarms and Stinkfly being "morphed" into a combined character called "Stinkarms". Make your own jokes, people, that one's way too obvious for me to get into.
Perhaps not too surprisingly, the card for Ben does not contain any special codes, even though his base does contain the decoder aspect (a length of transparent red plastic -- this sort of gimmick has been used on toys AT LEAST since Transformers and probably before). Since Ben is the central character and uses the Omnitrix to transform into the alien heroes, I don't think making him a cross-combination with any of those aliens would be entirely appropriate.
However, the card does give a brief explanation of Ben's experience with the Galactic Enforcers. The card features a picture of Ben from the episode, and reads, "Impressed with Ben's heroic abilities, the Galactic Enforcers invite him to join their ranks in battle against Sixsix and Vulkanus. Besides being given the official uniform of the super space patrolmen, Ben has access to Galactic Enforcers HQ - including their vast databanks, super-powered training room, and hangar with his own Galactic Enforcer fighter ship.
Just what every 10 year old boy wants, right? The card officially identifies the figure as "Galactic Enforcers Ben", even though that name is not used on the front of the toy package, which simply says, "Ben Tennyson Battle Version".
This is nevertheless a cool Ben Tennyson figure, and I definitely recommend it. Now let's consider the first of the two new aliens, named BENVICKTOR.
When they came up with the character and figure of Benwolf, I had a hunch something like this, and for that matter Benmummy, the other alien I'll be reviewing in this article, might follow. For one thing, none of the other alien heroes had started their names with "Ben". For another thing, Benwolf's resemblance to a futuristic, cartoonish, slightly alien werewolf was too apparent not to take note of. It seemed that Ben 10 was going to adapt certain classic movie monsters to Ben's repertoire of aliens that he could morph into. And sure enough, along came Benvicktor and Benmummy. What I wondered most, other than hoping there wasn't going to be a Benvampire or Benzombie, was if there was going to be a reasonable explanation within the concept for these characters which were clearly somewhat different than the rest of the aliens.
Fortunately, there was. Ben 10's various aliens explains it better than any other source: It seems there's a region of space called the Null Void, and there is a ring of so-called "Dark Planets" that guards this void from regular space. Need it be said, the inhabitants of these dark planets are somewhat -- unusual, as are the planets themselves. All of them begin with the word "Anur", a somehow sinister-sounding word that also does a nice job of setting them apart. Let's consider Benvicktor's background...
Benvicktor is a Transylian (a play on the region of Transylvania, obviously) from the planet Anur Transyl. In "Ben 10: Protector of Earth", Ghostfreak says that Benvicktor's race, called Viktors, are from his home planet of Anur Phaetos. Of all the worlds in the dark Anur belt, the gloomy planet of Anur Transyl is the one that is closest to Earth both in proximity and appearance. Nothing actually lives on Anur Transyl, so much as it exists; like most Anur worlds, deposits of Corrodium have mutated the inhabitants.
Transylians look much like Frankenstein's monster from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, having different colored skin at various points which gives the impression that they were sewn together. Benvicktor looks slightly different than Doctor Vicktor, the source alien. Benvicktor sports longer hair, a smaller left eye (Vicktor's appears to be mechanical), and generates green lightning, the natural color of lighting produced by the species, rather than purple.
Anur Transyl is plagued by frequent electrical storms, resulting in the Transylians' ability to manipulate electrical energy. Their bodies are composed of an organic metal which conducts this electricity, and the structures on their back serve to generate electriricty on demand. Their metal bodies make them strong and quite durable, and can be magnetized to stand firmly on metal surfaces. Transylians can fire bolts of electricity to attack, even in a vacuum where nothing exists to conduct it. They can also merge with mechanical devices and control them.
Ben first gains this form while battling with Doctor Vicktor in "Be Afraid of the Dark", during which time Vicktor accidentally grabs the Omnitrix. Ben uses the form later in the same episode to fight Ghostfreak. The credits give the form's name as Benvicktor, even though Ben himself has yet to name it.
It's also worth mentioning that Benvicktor was voiced by Michael Dorn, best known as the Klingon officer Worf from Star Trek The Next Generation and Star Trek Deep Space Nine. Dorn's deep voice has appeared on any number of animated series since then, including Gargoyles, Superman, and Justice League, with Dorn no doubt grateful for the fact that he can lend his vocal talents to such shows without having to endure a lengthy prosthetic make-up job.
As to the figure -- the one drawback to the Ben 10 four-inch scale line of figures is that they're all pretty much the same height, even if the characters in the animated series are wildly different sizes. Example - in the series, Ben Tennyson is an average-sized ten year old boy. Conversely, one of his alien forms, Fourarms, is supposed to be ten feet tall. Yet the two figures of them are pretty much the same height. And, of course, so is Benvicktor.
One thing the traditional incarnations of the Frankenstein monster have never been, however, is short. And given the powerful build of the character, I think it's reasonable to assume that Benvicktor is a rather large fellow who could probably mop up the floor with a Klingon warrior or just about anybody else who got in his way, especially if he can generate lightning in the process.
Benvicktor has a relatively small head, a massive chest, absolutely huge arms, and although his legs are actually smaller than his arms, they're still large and powerful, with the sort of thick-soled boots that have become almost a cliche for the appearance of a Frankenstein-like creature.
Benvicktor is not wearing a shirt. His skin is a sort of greyish-green-tan -- not a color I find it easy to define, obviously. He has black trousers with a white belt that has the Omnitrix symbol on it. All of Ben's alien forms have this on them somewhere. He is wearing large gauntlets on his hands and wrists. There are what look like bolts in his chest and shoulder blades. Traditionally, the Frankenstein monster has a couple of bolts in his neck, but this guy barely has a neck, so the bolts were moved over a bit. They are black with bright green centers. There are four additional bolts on his back with Bandai chose not to paint, although I suspect they're supposed to be the same colors as the ones on his front and shoulders. If I have one criticism of Bandai, it's that they'll cut a corner by skimping on paint on the back of a figure. I've seen them do it on Teen Titans, Power Rangers -- frankly, it's annoying.
Benvicktor has two huge -- things -- sticking out of the back of his shoulder blades, that look like the business end of electrical generators. Indeed, I suspect that's what they are. Good thing they don't actually work on the figure, or this thing would've had warning stickers like no toy in history, assuming it ever reached the market. These things just look dangerous.
Benvicktor's articulation is excellent. Sometimes Bandai will skimp a bit on the articulation of figures in this scale. Benvicktor's head does not turn, but that's not really the fault of Bandai. The character has a relatively small head perched on an immense set of shoulders, slightly hunched. He also has a long length of hair in the back that almost reaches his waist. Trying to articulate this would've been extremely difficult, and even if they'd found a way to turn the head, the plastic length of hair would've kept knocking into the two electrical generator whatsises on his shoulder blades and wouldn't've been able to turn very far anyway.
Benvicktor is poseable at the arms, elbows, legs, and knees. All of his limbs are quite thick, so I'm sure it wasn't hard to incorporate the articulation. Nevertheless, this guy isn't going to be assuming any ninja-like poses. He's just a bit too bulky for that. But on the whole, the articulation is good, and he's a cool addition to the line.
Lastly, let's have a look at BENMUMMY. Benmummy is a Thep Khufan, a suitably Egyptian sounding name, from the planet Anur Khufos. In the dark belt of planets that guard the Null Void from regular space, Anur Khufos is a world that exists below the surface of perception. It contains huge deposits of pure Corrodium, a highly radioactive metal that causes monstrous mutations in most species. The Thep Khufan are mummy-like aliens composed almost entirely of a bandage-like material, akin to the linen used on real mummies, with a solid, shell-like head. Benmummy's appearance differs slightly from the other mummy alien seen. His eyes and the gaps between his bandages glow green instead of purple. Benmummy also has black bracers and greaves, as well as a smaller mask and the Omnitrix symbol on his left shoulder. Benmummy can speak, even though the original seems to be mute.
Thep Khufans can stretch their bandages to great lengths and control them even when separated from its main body. This setup also allows them to reshape their bodies at will, splitting themselves apart to dodge attacks and reforming to counter-attack. However, the material that makes up their body is relatively weak, allowing it to be torn fairly easily by strong enough beings or other equivalent forces. To compensate for its relatively weak form, these aliens can recover from basically any injury, including being torn to shreds, almost instantly and with no visible repercussions. They can also survive in a vacuum.
When Ben first uses the form, he has trouble figuring out how to control it; Ben quickly discovers how to stretch his bandages, but has not displayed knowledge of the advanced reshaping techniques.
Despite the frailty of their bodies, Thep Khufans are quite strong, able to throw beings as heavy as Diamondhead with little effort.
Ben gains this form in "Under Wraps" when another mummy alien inadvertently adds its DNA to the Omnitrix, but accidentally transforms into Upgrade instead when trying to use him. Ben first uses the form in "The Return" to fight off the Yenaldooshi. The credits give the name "Benmummy," though Ben has not named it yet on-screen.
I'm going to be polite here and not comment on an episode name like "Under Wraps" for introducing a race of mummies... As for surviving being torn to shreds, it's amazing what they can put in an animated series these days. Still, you gotta figure, that's gonna smart a bit. But imagine the surprise of anyone who does that to one of these guys and thinks he's taken care of his opponent...!
As to the figure -- I have no idea how tall Benmummy is actually supposed to be. The thing about the four-inch line of Ben 10 figures is that they're all pretty much four inches in height, regardless of how their animated scales measure out. I would suspect that someone as -- flexible -- as Benmummy is able to alter his height, as far as that goes.
And I can only imagine how the toy designers at Bandai felt when somebody decided to add Benmummy to the collection, and they were suddenly faced with the prospect of creating a figure based on a character who appears to be primarily comprised of long strips of bandages. In fairness, Benmummy doesn't exactly look like a traditional mummy. And also in fairness, Bandai did a darn good job.
There's certainly an Egyptian look to the character. He's wearing a headpiece that is a stylized version of the sort of headpiece one would expect to see on a Pharaoh, or that one sees in the sadly deteriorating Sphinx in Egypt. The long, tapered headpiece is striped in gold and black, and there is a face mask of sorts with two eyes peering out from it. To add to the effect that you're not going to see whatever sort of face might exist underneath the helmet, the neck of the figure was molded in black, adding to a sort of "shadow effect".
Similar to the helmet, the figure is wearing a wraparound garment around his waist that also looks distinctly stylized Egyptian. The majority of the body (I hesitate to use the word "skin" for this character) is colored in a sort of pale olive. The symbol of the Omnitrix is on the figure's left shoulder.
Now, it'd be next to impossible for a small action figure to fully display the sorts of abilities that Benmummy has. One has to believe that what Bandai wanted to do was the best they could to show what Benmummy is capable of in the animated series. To this end, they did a good job. The figure is very slender, with very long, narrow arms that reach just about to the ground. He has relatively short legs compared to a very long and narrow torso. Black wrappings around his lower arms and lower legs, interspersed with green striping -- give a decent illusion of a stretching effect. There is also some green striping on his upper arms and chest. All of the detailing on this figure is very neatly painted.
Perhaps not surprisingly for a figure based on a character that can supposedly be torn to shreds and come back from it, although one would hate to put Ben himself to that test until he gets a better handle on these powers, there is a certain amount of "some assembly required" here. There are two additional wrappings that insert into the back of the shoulder blades. I almost missed these. They're quite thin. But I noticed these indented pegs on the back of the figure, and then noticed the photo of the figure on the package. Finally I found these two wrapping pieces. They fit in very well, and actually conceal a couple of the assembly screws of the figure. They don't feel like they're going to fall out, but if you are so inclined, a couple of drops of glue probably wouldn't hurt.
The figure's articulation is good, but somewhat hindered by his wardrobe. The head does turn, but not all that far due to the long headpiece. And the head on my Benmummy is a little loose. The figure has a very thin neck. I don't know if this looseness is a symptom of all of the figures just because of the design, or just the one I bought. The figure is also poseable at the waist, arms and legs, although the legs don't move all that far because of the wraparound at the waist. The knees and elbows do not move. The legs are quite small, and I doubt that a knee joint would've been practical. And given the design of the arms, it's a little hard to tell precisely where the elbows, assuming that the character even has elbows, would be.
Personally, I think it might've been interesting, and certainly appropriate, if they'd made Benmummy's arms "bendies", flexible plastic with internal wires. However, that likely would've driven up production costs, and one interesting thing about Ben 10 figures is that they're quite a bargain compared to other action figure lines, especially when you consider that unlike some other action figure lines, the characters of the Ben 10 universe really can't swap parts in the toy world. They're all too distinctive in their individual designs.
As I mentioned earlier, the new Ben 10 animated series has started up, entitled "Ben 10 Alien Force". In this new series, Ben Tennyson, as well as his cousin Gwen and now-former enemy Kevin 11, are five years older, and searching for the missing Max Tennyson. The show promises a host of new aliens for Ben to transform into, and toys based on this new series have already been showcased by Bandai, including a new, older Ben Tennyson.
While I suspect I will look forward to the new alien characters, and suspect I may well collect (and review) them, I categorically DON'T agree with the concept of aging Ben into his teenage years. I believe this takes away one of the most distinctive parts of the concept, as well as moves the character away from the very same age group that the series most appeals to, and also as a result removes one of its greatest factors that appeals TO that age group -- a hero WITHIN that age group. I'm not sure how many 15-year-olds are going to want to tune into a new "Ben 10", even if the hero is now somewhat older.
I suppose the rationale is that with the show having been on the air for four seasons, its audience is older. But I'd love to see the demographics that indicate that and see if it's true, and even if it IS, I wouldn't be convinced that such a drastic alteration to the core character of this concept is a good idea.
For myself, I'll stick with the original, thank you, although we'll see what sorts of interesting aliens might develop from the new series, at least.
Meanwhile, if you want to add one more Ben Tennyson at his best-recognized
age to your Ben 10 collection, as well as two additional "original
series" aliens, then here you go. GALACTIC ENFORCER BEN TENNYSON,
BENVICKTOR, and BENMUMMY definitely have my enthusiastic recommendation!
Very cool action figures, each one!