Healthily into its third season, it's only now that BEN 10's freshman year is finally coming out in dvd in all its thirteen episode glory. Debuting in December 27, 2005 on the Cartoon Network, BEN 10 was an immediate hit with the fans as the show, boasting a very cool concept, proved to be fun and eminently watchable. Plus, that theme song rocks.
The premise: Ordinary 10 year old Ben Tennyson comes upon a mysterious alien artifact (resembling a wristwatch) which grants him temporary access to the forms of ten alien species, each of whom is inherently imbued with its own superhuman ability. In the constant company of his wise and benign grandfather Max (who hints of an enigmatic past, proving that being a "plumber" is more exciting than one would think) and his clever, sassy cousin Gwen (who he initially dislikes), Ben, early on, learns his lessons as he heroically attempts to abide by the famous Spidey quote: "With great power comes great responsibility." But his attempts to live up to that credo are at constant odds with his more carefree and mischievous pre-adolescent tendencies. Accordingly, he strives to use his new-found super powers to nab villains, all the while keeping at bay the maurauding alien, octopus-faced Vilgax, who will stop at nothing to own the Omnitrix. But, as civic minded as he has become, that doesn't mean that young Ben can't have any fun...
The hook, of course, is that this young, normal kid all of a sudden gains and gets to play with the powers of ten formidable alien beings. Part of the fun is in witnessing Ben discover all the diverse forms (some of which are strange and kinda gross, and one, Ghostfreak, even really unnerving) he comes to inhabit and his varying reactions to 'em. These ten beings are rendered as visually striking and colorful, my two personal favorites being Heatblast and Upgrade. And, oh, yeah, for those who were wondering, these ten aliens whose shapes and abilities Ben can borrow, in no particular order, are: Upgrade (a biomechanical being who can integrate itself into any machine and instantly improve upon or "upgrade" it), Four Arms (a bruising, 12-foot-tall, four-armed alien with awesome strength), Heatblast (an incendiary individual whose race dwells on a sun), Diamondhead (the near invulnerable, crystalline being), XLR8 (capable of immense super speed), Ripjaws (the aquatic alien), Grey Matter (the miniscule alien, standing at 5" tall), Ghostfreak (creepy and spectre-like), Stinkfly (a winged insectoid alien), and Wildmutt (a quilled, bestial creature).
And, now, for the self-righteous, holier-than-thou part of the review: this show is perfectly catered for our impressionable young 'uns. With the expected, patented family values, as well as the mainstay credo of trying to do the right thing, being wholesomely espoused throughout the episodes (and in a non-sanctimonious way), kids should find themselves entertained as they are simultaneously taught the classic, goody-two-shoes virtues. The interactions among Ben, Grandpa Max, and Gwen are nicely portrayed as his supportive gramps and his more mature cousin strive to keep the impulsive Ben on the proper path (because Ben does lose it and act out every now and then).
Its cartoony animation is well suited to BEN 10, meshing with the show's sensibilities. This series is meant to be light, innocent, and fun-filled, in spite of all the heavy sci-fi action, and these qualities are perfectly conveyed by the clean lines and caricatured look. Young kids certainly wouldn't mind, and Ben's otherworldly personas are depicted in a nifty and energetic enough manner. The look and style of BEN 10, actually, leans towards the anime style and recalls TEEN TITANS to mind. I kinda like it.
Now, the minuses. Other than the very alluring hook of being ten different superheroes, there's really nothing new about this series. One improvement I can think of is that this show would be better served with more cohesion and more episodic continuity. Multi-part episodes would be very welcome. As it is right now, the formulaic plot has the Tennyson family travelling to some destination, only to encounter the supervillain flavor-of-the-week (although several of these baddies are sicced on by the series's main villain, Vilgax). Don't get me wrong, there is some character development and these are pretty cool stand alone episodes, but BEN 10 seemingly lacks that certain focus; and the show's story arc and plot progression are developing too slowly for my taste. But, hey, that doesn't mean I'm gonna stop watching this series. When you get to the nitty-gritty, BEN 10 is just too much fun to miss out. Not to mention, Seasons 2 and 3 do offer up several great episodes ("Gwen 10" and "Ben 10,000," to name but two).
By the way, from what I've read on Wikipedia, the Special Features will include several episode commentaries, interviews with the showmakers, a creator drawing lesson, and a collectible poster.
Here we go with the episodes:
"And Then There Were Ten" (episode one) - On a summer cross-country trip via motorhome with his Grandpa Max and his disliked cousin Gwen, Ben Tennyson ends up with the powerful Omnitrix. But, intergalactic conqueror Vilgax is intent on gaining possession of the Omnitrix and sends his robots to get it.
"Washington B.C." (episode two) - Ben goes up against Dr. Animo, a loony but brilliant scientist who created the Transmodulator, an invention which enlarges and distorts normal animals into gigantic, dangerous beasts.
"The Krakken" (episode three) - While camping out and taking a swim in a lake, Ben bumps into a sea monster.
"Permanent Retirement" (episode four) - In a homage to (or a blatant rip off of) INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, Ben, Max, and Gwen visit Aunt Vera's tiny town and discover that the residents are exhibiting very weird behavior.
"Hunted" (episode five) - Vilgax sends three alien bounty hunters (Kraab, SixSix, and Hoverboard) after Ben's Omnitrix.
"Tourist Trap" (episode six) - Feeling let down and bitterly bored with the tourist town of Sparksville and its main attraction of a giant ball of rubber bands, Max decides to play a prank but, instead, unleashes an electrical being called the Megawhatt.
"Kevin 11" (episode seven) - Ben meets and hangs out with the psychotic, 11-year-old Kevin, who has the power to absorb energy. When Kevin learns of Ben's Omnitrix powers, he begins to absorb those.
"The Alliance" (episode eight) - Ben goes up against an ornery female armored car robber who had been converted into a destructive alien cyborg named Rojo.
"Last Laugh" (episode nine) - We find out that Ben is afraid of clowns, which sucks for him because the main baddie in this episode is an evil, parasitic clown named Zombozo.
"Lucky Girl" (episode ten) - When Ben beats the wicked magician Hex, he takes from him a magical charm as a souvenir and offers it to Gwen. Gwen discovers that the charm has the power of incredible luck and becomes a superhero herself, called Lucky Girl. But, there's no such thing as a free lunch, and a prize must be paid for all of Gwen's fortuitousness...
"A Small Problem" (episode eleven) - When there appears to be a glitch with the Omnitrix, Ben pounds the device in an attempt to activate it and ends up trapped in the form of the 5" tall Grey Matter. An alien-obssessed man named Howell Wayneright captures him and presents him to the Organization, a clandestine group aiming to collect alien technology for its own purposes.
"Side Effects" (episode twelve) - When Ben catches a cold, it has the side effect of weakening his powerful alter-egos; it's bad timing as he has to face off against an insect-controlling madman, who threatens the city with nuclear devastation.
"Secrets" (episode thirteen) - It's the head alien, Vilgax himself, versus Ben 10. Plus, we get a first look at the underground facility beneath Mount Rushmore, which is the HQ of Grandpa Max's former covert and X-Files-like goverment organization.