Ben 10 Ultimate Alien: Volume 2 (DVD)

The universe trembles at the thought of another Ben 10 DVD.

When we last saw Ben Tennyson and his friends, they were in quite the intergalactic pickle. Space criminal Aggregor had succeeded in his plan to absorb the powers of five alien fugitives, mutating himself into an unstoppably powerful force. In the ten episodes of this two-disc set, Ben and company are off to space, in pursuit of Aggregor’s end game. The price for defeating Aggregor, however, might mean the loss of one of their own.

Sixteen-year-old Ben Tennyson, (Yuri Lowenthal, Naruto) wields the Ultimatrix, a device that allows him to transform into considerably more than ten super-powered aliens. With his energy-manipulating cousin Gwen (Ashley Johnson, Phenom) and his metal-absorbing pal Kevin (Greg Cipes, Teen Titans), Ben fights to keep the Earth safe from evil aliens.

The keys to this Ben 10 Ultimate Alien episode list are hidden throughout the galaxy:

• “Map of Infinity”
The new Aggregor is too much for Ben and friends to handle. With help from former Alien Force members Azmuth and Professor Paradox, Ben learns that Aggregor is searching the galaxy for a map that can lead him to the Forge of Creation, which Aggregor can use to reshape the entire universe to his will, so now the race is on to see who can find the map first.

• “Reflected Glory”
School bullies Cash and J.T. make a return appearance. They’ve started a webcast in which they’ve taken credit for all of Ben’s world-saving. Now, joining Ben in battle against side villains the Forever Knights, Cash and J.T. learn a thing or two about real heroism.

• “Deep”
Aggregor is after a piece of the map on an aquatic world. Removing the map could mean destroying the entire planet.

• “Where the Magic Happens”
The next map piece is in an alternate dimension made of pure magic (or mana energy, depending on which character you’re talking to). To lend a hand, our heroes recruit magic-using villainess Charmcaster, but can she be trusted?

• “Perplexahedron”
Ben and friends pursue Aggregor through an alien maze, which doesn’t conform to the laws of physics. Can they get out with not just the next piece, but their sanity as well?

• “The Forge of Creation”
In a last-ditch attempt to stop Aggregor, Ben turns to his most powerful but hardest to control alien, Alien X. The journey takes him to Alien X’s CelestialSapien home, where Ben meets a very familiar face from his past.

• “Nor Iron Bars a Cage”
The battle with Aggregor took its toll on Kevin, who finds himself transformed into another monstrous form, and out of his mind with hunger for energy. He flees to the Null Void prison to settle an old score, with Ben and Gwen in pursuit.

• “The Enemy of My Enemy”
The next in line to face Kevin’s vengeance is alien conman Argit. Ben and Gwen take Argit to the plumber academy to set a trap for Kevin. Argit, as usual, has another devious plan in mind.

• “Absolute Power” Parts One and Two
As Kevin continues to grow in both power and unchecked rage, Gwen believes he can be saved, while Ben believed there’s no choice but to kill him. They fight, and go their separate ways. All three friends are now enemies, and as they battle one another, their lives may never be the same again.

After a run of less-than-stellar episodes, it’s time for Ben 10 Ultimate Alien to get awesome again. These ten episodes offer outrageous space adventure, along with some rich character development, pushing the show’s three heroes to their limits.

Almost every one of these episodes takes place in outer space or other dimensions, with visits to a variety of alien worlds. This is the kind of sci-fi I enjoy most, not so much about the tech and the so-called “real science,” but about far-out imagery and big, big ideas. We’re dealing with a map to the creation of the universe, celestial beings who could rewrite reality with a thought but are more interested in debating philosophy, environments where the physics and logic have broken down, a planet where the temperature is either freezing or burning, and, of course, aliens of all sizes, shapes and abilities. You know, the really fun “space opera” stuff.

As much fun as it to fly around the galaxy and blow things up, the real strength of this volume is the character interaction. Aggregor is a cool villain, as sneaky as he powerful, and his new look is pretty sweet, but he’s only here to get us to the final act, in which Kevin loses it and goes off the deep end. When they are done well, fewer stories in the superhero genre carry more emotional power than the betrayal. This is when former friends or teammates must face each other as enemies. It happened to Superman and Batman, it happened to Captain America and Iron Man, it happened to Buffy and Willow, and now it’s Ben 10’s turn. It’s been hinted at for a long time that Kevin might go bad, but the writers take it a step farther by Kevin’s evil driving a wedge between Ben and Gwen, as they disagree over what to do about Kevin. Evil Kevin was partially expected, but seeing Ben and Gwen resort to fighting? That was just heartbreaking. It’s to the creators’ credit that this is not just another fight scene, but it instead elicits an “Oh, my God!” response every time Ben or Gwen lands a blow on one another. Harsh stuff. As the plot nears its climax, it’s a guessing game as to whether Kevin can be saved, or if Kevin-as-a-villain will become the show’s new status quo.

That’s not to say that the show has gone dark. A big strength of the series has been the humor, which is at its best in the clever exchanges between the characters, and there’s plenty of that here as well. As always, a huge draw of the show is the action, and the animators do a great job of keeping it varied with a massive amount of both aliens and alien environments to play with. Ben’s new celebrity status, which was a major development in the last volume, only gets a few mentions this time around. Perhaps the writers realized what a hole they dug for themselves with that one, and chose to have Ben away from Earth for the duration.

• One drawback to having the the characers spend so much time in space is that it loses some of the “everyman hero” aspect of Ben’s character, as there’s almost no mention of things like parents, school, etc.
• The episode “Reflected Glory” is a lighthearted, comedic story, which is fine, but it’s a stand-alone tale sandwiched in the middle of an ongoing arc, killing the momentum that had been built up before it.
• Wait…what happened to Aggregor? Did they just leave them sitting there on that CelestialSapien’s giant hand?

The audio and video continue to be strong with these Ben 10 releases. Again, the Null Void episode is a standout, with the characters standing against a bright red background, without any problems such as color bleeding. Audio is good as well, especially when it comes to the many explosive sound effects during the action scenes. As usual all we get for extras is another “Alien Database” feature, which you click through with your remote to read about a couple of the show’s creatures.

While reading up on Ben 10 for this review I learned that the show’s co-producer and story editor Dwayne McDuffie, who wrote many of the episodes on this set, has passed away. A writer for both TV and comics, he left behind a great legacy of stories and characters, and he will be missed.

This volume is the best the show has been since the Highbreed arc from Ben 10 Alien Force, and it an instant must-buy for fans.

The Verdict

Not guilty throughout creation.

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