Ben 10 Ultimate Alien: Volume 5 (DVD)

“Coming back from the dead really builds up a thirst.”

The packaging refers to this two-disc set as “The Ultimate Ending.” That’s only a half-truth. It might be the end of Ben 10 Ultimate Alien, which was preceded by Ben 10 and Ben 10 Alien Force, but the franchise is set to continue with another new series, Ben 10 Omniverse. So it’s more like the end of a chapter, and not the final, absolute end.

Teenage Ben Tennyson, (Yuri Lowenthal, Naruto) wields the Ultimatrix, a device that allows him to transform into way more than ten super-powered aliens. At his side are his energy-manipulating cousin Gwen (Ashley Johnson, Phenom) and his metal-absorbing friend Kevin (Greg Cipes, Teen Titans). They save the Earth on a regular basis.

This episode list must never be allowed to escape into our dimension:

• “Solitary Alignment”
Picking from the cliffhanger at the end of the last volume, Ben confronts Sir George, leader of the Forever Knights, regarding a mystical seal and the ancient evil trapped within it. Ben makes a fateful choice whether to stop George or let him go.

• “Inspector 13”
An alien attempts to steal the Ultimatrix (again!) which causes it to go haywire (again!), leaving Ben and his friends dealing with the unexpected results (again!).

• “The Enemy of My Frenemy”
Gwen fulfills the promise she made to villain Charmcaster, so she leads Ben and Kevin into the magical realm of Ledgerdomain to help her. All is not well in the other world, however, and coming to Charmcaster’s aid could be deadly.

• “Catch a Falling Star”
Movie star Jennifer Nocturne reunites with disgraced-hero-turned-villain Captain Nemesis. She helps him escape from jail, and they’re on the run. She longs for them to start a new life, but he refuses, wishing instead to destroy Ben before he does anything else.

• “The Eggman Cometh”
Ordinary grocery store eggs all over the city are hatching open, releasing dinosaur-like monsters. Ben and company turn to local law enforcement for help. You can imagine how well that goes.

• “Couples Retreat”
Darkstar, formerly a member of the Alien Force but not a ruthless enemy, meets Charmcaster while seeking for energy to feed off of. They begin a whirlwind romance, which could mean happiness for them, and trouble for Ben.

• “Night of the Living Nightmare”
Ben wakes up in the middle of the night. His house and his entire neighborhood are deserted. He then finds himself under attack by a bunch of old enemies at once. Is this all a dream, or is a real danger?

• “The Beginning of the End”
Ben and friends are attacked by the Esoterica, who are followers of Diagon, the evil being hunted by Sir George and the Forever Knights. Ben reunites with George and prepares to join in the fight against Diagon.

• “The Ultimate Enemy” Parts one and two
The explosive finale sees Ben, Gwen, Kevin, and Sir George taking on the sinister Diagon. The evil one has enlisted Ben’s oldest foe, Vilgax, to take them all out during the final showdown out in desert.

After a show has been on the air for this long, what can it do to keep viewers surprised? Oh, I don’t know, how about brutally murdering everyone? Seriously, this happens. In one episode, which I assumed would be just another episode, it shocked me by actually killing off characters, in a rather brutal, downbeat way no less. You’re not dumb, so you already know that everything ends up OK in the end, as is often the case with characters dying in superhero stories, but it was still a “sit up and take notice” moment. The ten episodes on this two-disc set are full of moments like this, revealing how much the show has grown up from its toy-based early days. The fugitives in love in “Catch a Falling Star” and Charmcaster’s longing for Darkstar in “Couples Retreat” show great depth to these characters, and their struggles to repair their hopelessly broken relationship.

The main plot of these episodes has to do with the big bad, Diagon, who is almost never seen, as he’s trapped behind that mystical seal. Diagon’s influence is certainly felt, however, as the writers do a great job of setting up the creature’s importance, and why everyone is so afraid of it. During the finale, when the beastie eventually gets its moment in the spotlight, it’s suitably nightmarish, as the animators leaned heavily on the works of Lovecraft for their inspiration, no doubt. Along for the ride is Vilgax. Ever since Vilgax was reintroduced in the later episodes of Ben 10 Alien Force, the writers have never quite known what to do with him. The would-be intergalactic tyrant often came off as little more than a thuggish bully, showing up on Earth to kick Ben around for no real reason. That appears to be the case this time around, as Vilgax swears allegiance to Diagon. But, much to my pleasant surprise, Vilgax ends up acting with his head and not his fists, making for an exciting twist or two during the big battle.

With so many characters running around and so many loose ends being wrapped up, our three main heroes don’t stand out as much, making these episode more like a big ensemble show. Still, they do have some moments to shine. Gwen and Kevin’s ongoing flirtation have reached full-blown romance levels by now. Ben, meanwhile, has learned that the hero thing is more than fighting. At one point, he lets an enemy go, making a case that it’s for the greater good. There’s also a lot of discussion about the purpose of the Ultimatrix. It was meant to be used to learn about alien species, yet everyone wants to use it as a weapon. These discussions then lead into the overall question of whether Ben, out of everyone in the universe, is worthy enough to be the one who wields it. This is answered in the finale’s last few minuets in a smart, satisfying way.

With all this going on, the show still makes time to have some fun. “Inspector 13” has the Ultimatrix go haywire in a way it hadn’t before, which was fun to see. “The Eggman Cometh” is the big comedy episode this time around, answering the question of why Ben and company don’t just go to the cops when aliens attack. As for the action, it’s excellently staged, as usual. Each episode gives us a lot of big alien battles, but it never feels tedious, repetitious, or tacked on.

In the past, the creators have done a great job of varying the appearances of Ben’s many alien forms, but this time around, it seems like we’re only getting a few, with most of them being unseen. Perhaps that’s a symptom of having too many characters to choose from, so that it feels like more are being left out. Or, perhaps the animators were pressured to use the newer aliens as much as possible. Whatever the case, don’t be surprised if some of your favorites don’t show up this time around.

Video and audio are stellar. There are a lot of bright, bold, colors, which really shine on these discs. Sound is good as well, with the score being a real standout this time around, booming and immersive throughout. As usual, the only bonus feature is another “Alien Database” feature that you click through with your remote, to read about some of the characters.

Tracking the course of the franchise, here’s what we’ve had so far:

Ben 10 seasons one through four: Good.

Ben 10 Alien Force volumes one through six: Unbelievably amazing.

Ben 10 Alien Force volumes seven through nine: Not as great.

Ben 10 Ultimate Alien volumes one through five: Great.

Bring on the Omniverse.

The Verdict

Not guilty. Don’t break the seal!

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