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Ben 10: Alien Force Vol 1

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I think I’ve finally figured out where my fascination with the Ben 10 franchise comes from, but I’ll get to that later. Back when I first reviewed the Ben 10 animated film SECRETS OF THE OMNITRIX, I was really intrigued to discover that not only had the series spawned both an animated and a live action feature, but that it’s creators were in the process of reinventing the series.

Taking the form of BEN 10: ALIEN FORCE, this reinvention picks up Ben’s life five years after the original series. Ben is now 15 and no longer has the Omnitrix attached to his wrist. How has he adjusted to a life which doesn’t involve constant transmogrification into alien forms, fighting aliens bent on world domination, and hanging out in a trailer with is Grandfather and cousin Gwen? More importantly, is he still the massive d-bag that he was back when he was only two thirds the age he is now?

Well, I’m glad to report that in the five episodes contained in the volume 1 release of Ben 10: Alien Force Ben’s penchant for smart-ass, d-baggery is kept in check — as best we could hope for — as he is forced to choose between his now normal life and returning to one which sees him back in the fray, having his DNA messed about with on a regular basis.

Ben’s grandfather, Max, has gone missing, leaving behind only a cryptic “help me Obi-Wan Kenobe” style holographic message. Over the past five years, Gwen’s powers have increased and now she and Ben re-team. Along with former foe Kevin Levin — who has the ability to absorb the strength and properties of any solid substance he comes into contact with — the two begin the hunt for Grandpa Max, thwart the plans of an alien race called the Highbreed, and begin assembling a team of super-powered kids.

Oh the whole, Alien Force is a marked improvement over the original series, but it still hasn’t quite managed to bridge the ‘appeals to adults’ gap that other shows, like Dexter’s Lab or Kim Possible have. Nor has it managed to reach what I believe to be its final goal… something akin to THE DARK KNIGHT or JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED. Which brings me to the bit where I pick up on the thing that fascinates me about this show:

It seems apparent — at least to me — that MAN OF ACTION, the team responsible for the creation of Ben 10, have deliberately set out to create a true superhero for the current generation of kids. With the original series they lay the ground-work for the hero mythology, both in the context of the show and in their target audience. Now they’ve leaped ahead of that audience by a couple of years, and in doing so have made sure that the kids who found the characters relatable in the original series, will continue to relate to them for the next few years too.

It wasn’t long after the creation Superman, that Superboy made the scene. And it’s in great part to Superboy, that Superman owes his iconic status. Superboy’s adventures were clearly aimed at a younger audience, but as that audience grew up they were able to move on to appreciating the more — ok, only slightly — mature tales of Superman. The end result is that Superman has been engrained as the definitive superhero to many generations. Man of Action appear to be using the same strategy with the Ben 10 franchise, by allowing Ben (and friends) to age along with the show’s audience they’re ensuring that these characters are seen as definitive to this generation of kids.

The characters are still a little lacking in this new series, and the romantic angle between Kevin and Gwen will leave you with that lingering taste of regurgitation in the back of your throat. But while Ben 10: Alien Force stills falls short of attracting an adult audience, it does seem to be a stepping stone to a more mature, JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED style, version of the franchise. It’ll be very interesting to see whether it gets there or not. [source]

Programme content, package design and supplementary material © 2008 Cartoon Network. CARTOON NETWORK, the logo, BEN 10 ALIEN FORCE and all related characters and elements are trademarks of and © 2008 Cartoon Network. A TimeWarner Company. All Rights Reserved.
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