Ben 10 Alien Force: Volume 5 (DVD)

The awesomeness that is Ben 10 Alien Force bursts forth from this disc onto your TV screen and then right into your brain’s pleasure centers. Have I mentioned lately how much I enjoy this show?

Fifteen-year-old Ben Tennyson (Yuri Lowenthal, Naruto) wields the Omnitrix, a device that allows him to transform into any one of ten super-powered alien creatures. With his energy-manipulating cousin Gwen (Ashley Johnson, Phenom) and his metal-absorbing miscreant pal Kevin (Greg Cipes, Teen Titans), Ben fights against a sinister threat known as the Highbreed.

Kevin whipped up this episode list while working in the garage:

• “Pet Project”
Ship, the Upgrade-style alien adopted as a pet by Ben’s romantic interest Julie, is in jeopardy when side villains the Forever Knights show up hoping to use the little guy for their own sinister purposes.

• “Grounded”
Ben’s secret is out after his parents catch him transforming into Swampfire. He’s grounded, leaving Kevin to investigate the Highbreed’s latest scheme on his own.

• “Voided”
Ben is drawn into the Null Void, a monster-filled alternate dimension used as a prison by alien bounty hunters. There, Ben encounters numerous familiar faces, both friend and foe.

• Inside Man”
A man escapes from a Highbreed hideout, pursued by DNAliens, the Highbreed’s foot soldiers. Ben and company hope to learn what secrets he knows while protecting him from danger.

First, the stats: These four episodes are middle section of the second season of Ben 10 Alien Force, which follows the four seasons of the original Ben 10.

By this point, the story arc is picking up steam and rapidly charging toward the big final confrontation with the Highbreed, which I’m sure we’ll see in the eventual Volume 6 DVD. The bad news is that this is not the place for first-timers to jump in. The good news is that these four episodes are filled with big payoffs for fans who’ve followed Ben and company’s adventures all this time.

The latter two episodes are the big one-two punch on this set. “Voided” is a total mind-blower, with not one but several big revelations regarding the show’s mythology. All these stunners are packed into a tale also filled with a slew of over-the-top monster battles, and a new at how life in the Null Void isn’t quite what Ben expected. It’s another great example of sci-fi that’s more interested in outlandish ideas and developing a sense of wonder than it is in long-winded techno-babble. “Inside Man,” meanwhile, reveals a lot more about the Highbreed and the DNAliens, leading to a surprisingly emotional conclusion for the episode’s “guest star.”

“Pet Project” with its emphasis on supporting characters like Julie, Ship, and the Forever Knights, doesn’t appear at first to be connected to the overall story, but it’s notable for some great humor, such as Ship’s latest “trick” for Julie, and a well-timed Monty Python reference. It’s also a visually rich episode, as the animators really cut loose when showing off everything Ship can do. In “Grounded,” Ben’s rarely-seen and mostly-clueless parents get their moment in the spotlight. When they learn Ben’s secret, it leads to a lot of great character moments and back story for them and Ben. Coming clean with his mom and dad takes Ben out of his comfort zone in a way a gigantic two-headed monster never could.

The visuals on this DVD are superb. The colors jump right off the screen, and the blacks are deep and rich. The Null Void scenes are standouts, with all kinds of colors and lighting effects for the animators to play with. The sound is of equal quality, with dialogue, effects and score coming through excellently. The only extra is a sneak preview of Ben’s second live action made-for-TV adventure, Ben 10 Alien Swarm.

As much as I enjoyed these episodes, they don’t reduce the sting of only getting four per disc instead of a complete season set. Also, the back cover contains a pretty huge spoiler, so be wary if you’re going into this one blind.

As it readies for the big finale, Ben 10 Alien Force is at the top of its game with these episodes. Volume 5 contains everything that makes the show so much fun—big action, big laughs, and big surprises.

The Verdict

Null guilty.

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