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By Thomas Wheeler

As I continue to collect the Ben 10 series of 4" scale aliens, I will continue to review them in assorted groups. There's no great rhyme or reason to this -- just whomever I've been able to find in recent times, who looks like they'd make a good review.

Here's the basic Ben 10 concept: the show revolves around 10-year-old Ben Tennyson, his same-age cousin Gwen, and his grandfather Max. At the start of their summer camping trip, Ben is nearly hit by an alien pod that falls from space and crashes next to him. When he examines it, he finds a mysterious, watch-like device, called the Omnitrix, stored inside. The device attaches to his wrist and gives him the ability to transform into different alien heroes, each with their own unique powers.

Bandai picked up the toy license for this Cartoon Network program, and has been producing action figures for about a year. I steered clear of it just out of moderate annoyance that they were making all of the aliens that Ben could turn into, but not Ben! They finally got around to the kid at the start of 2007. So once I got him, I started to round up the aliens, which is proving to be quite a gradual process.

Let's consider a few more of them at this time...

STINKFLY - While I personally would have to question how much I would want to be able to transform into a character with a name like this, one has to remember that we're dealing with a 10-year-old boy here. Some of them get a kick out of the gross stuff. Besides, there's worse, as this review will prove in a little while.

According to the very useful fan-based Ben 10 Web Site, Stinkfly is a Lepidopterran. Lepidopterrans are an intelligent insectoid race that in many ways resemble an enormous stinkfly. With their transparent wings, ultra-sensitive antennae and sturdy exoskeletons, Lepidopterrans explore vast territories, collecting plant pollens for harvest. Depending on the plant, a Lepidopterran is capable of creating a wide array of goos and gasses with a range of potent effects. Everything from an ultra-thick immobilizing jelly to a potent stinging spray can be manufactured in their pollen ducts. Lepidopterrans are extremely acrobatic flyers and able to pull off amazing maneuvers of precision and grace. While designed mainly for grappling, the hard spikes on their forearms also make a valuable weapon in battle. Like most earth insects, Lepidopterrans are extremely vulnerable to any kind of chemical poison or gas. Although their exoskeleton bodies remain fairly rugged, Lepidopterran wings are extremely fragile and easy to damage, so they must remain in constant motion or risk being grounded ... for life.

Their homeworld, Lepidopterra, is described as follows: With its advanced and highly specialized ecosystem, Lepidopterra is a generally peaceful swamp planet whose numerous species live among a fantastic variety of giant plants. Residing in a complex of giant hives each ruled by its own queen, Lepidopterrans are the predominant inhabitants of their planet. Life on this planet is seasonal, and every species does its part to make sure the flora continues to produce its fruit so that all can live together in harmony as they have for countless eons.

Sounds like one of the more pleasant planets I've heard described in the Ben 10 series.

Stinkfly is one of the more unusual forms that Ben can transform into, in that he is almost completely non-humanoid. Stinkfly is very clearly insectoid, with a head atop a long, thorax-like body, six limbs emerging from the sides, a tail with a nasty-looking stinger at the end of it, and a pair of wings which, despite the character description, were not made transparent on the toy. They're rather angular wings, and sort of look like what you'd get if you crossed a butterfly with a fighter jet designed by Batman.

The head has four antennae-like eye-stalks. In keeping with the design of many of these characters to reflect to some degree Ben Tennyson's shirt colors, Stinkfly's head is black, and his thorax is white with black trim. He has the symbol of the Omnitrix on his forehead. However, his eyestalks are a sort of olive green, as are his six limbs.

The two front limbs are clearly designed to be arms, while the back four are legs. On the toy, the two arms move independently, but the legs move in pairs. The front legs move as one, as do the back legs. Still, at least they're articulated. Some toy companies probably would not have made that much effort. This is one of the more complicated Ben 10 figures from a design and articulation standpoint, and I'm sure the basic design of the character gave some of Bandai's engineers some rough moments. The two wings are independently hinged, and the head and tail are also articulated. The figure stands very nicely on his four legs. Keeps his balance better than some of the figures in this line.

Some additional information on the Web Site, provided by Bandai's press kit, reads: Stinkfly is an insectoid alien and resembles a mutated dragonfly. He is a very acrobatic flyer and is able to pull off amazing moves. His sharp tail and pinchers can be used as weapons. When Ben is Stinkfly, he can combat his enemies in the air. While his exoskeleton skin is very tough, Stinkfly's wings are very weak, so Ben must be careful with them. Stinkfly is vulnerable to poisons and gases.

Stinkfly, like all of the 4" scale figures in the Ben 10 collection, comes with an Animation Disc tha works with a viewer that comes with the massive Alien Lab playset, as well as a Lenticular Motion cars that shows Ben transforming into Stinkfly. The information on the back of that card reads: An intelligent insectoid race with transparent wings and ultra-sensitive antennae. A Lepidopterran is capable of creating a wide array of goo and gases, everything from an ultra-thick immobilizing jelly to a potent stinging spray.

Overall, Stinkfly is certainly one of the more interesting additions to the Ben 10 Alien Collection.

GREYMATTER - Ever watched one of those "alien abduction" programs on The History Channel? Generally speaking, the descriptions of the aliens committing these acts tends to be pretty similar. Rather small, with greyish skin, large heads, slender bodies, with big eyes and narrow mouths. Greymatter looks like this, although since the Ben 10 Alien Collection doesn't try to keep the figures to scale with each other -- it'd be nearly impossible given their incredible size variances in the cartoon -- Greymatter is actually a whole lot smaller than any of those beings from the UFO documentaries, and the figure is almost "lifesize".

Greymatter is a Galvan. From the Web Site: The typical Galvan is five inches tall, with soft and flexible bones that allow them to squeeze into tight spaces or spring quickly from danger. And while their slimy skin allows Galvans to stick to almost surface, it also makes them equally difficult to grab hold of. Known for evasion rather than confrontation and lacking any real combat prowess, Galvans have developed intellectual capacities far beyond those of neighboring species. Incessant collectors of all things technological, they are raised to enter complex machines and operate them from the inside. Despite all of their advanced science, Galvans must remain ever vigilant because in a dangerous galaxy, size still matters and Galvans are easily trampled underfoot.

Regarding their homeworld, the Web Site reports: Despite its diminutive scale, Galvan is one of the most scientifically advanced worlds in the galaxy. Miniature skyscrapers and ultra-fast causeways litter the landscape, leaving little room for nature. First kept as pets and then employed by other species as industrial technicians, spies and saboteurs, Galvans were smart enough to keep the best secrets for themselves, eventually amassing enough knowledge to build a powerful empire of their own. A chaotic world of intrigue and innovation, the coldly technocratic inhabitants of Galvan Prime work tirelessly and consume massive resources to keep an ever-tightening grip over their former masters.

I'd be hesitant to call the Greymatter figure "cute", but he almost is. The head is proportionately enormous compared to the rest of the body. Oval shaped, with two massive eyes with slit-like pupils. The body is slender and distinctly humanoid, although the figure has large hands. The Omnitrix symbol is on the figure's back, and is far larger than it is on most of the Ben 10 Aliens. I suspect this is a representation of Greymatter's scale, and the Omnitrix simply couldn't get any smaller than this.

Greymatter, not surprisingly perhaps, has grey skin, and is dressed in a one-piece bodysuit that reflects the color scheme of Ben's shirt, in that it is white with a black stripe down the front, and black cuffs at the wrists and ankles.

The figure is nicely articulated, poseable at the head, arms, legs, and knees. The wrists also turn. While most of the Ben 10 Alien Collection figures do not come with accessories, Greymatter does -- a tiny version of himself, in a crawling position, about 1-1/4" in length. This sort of thing has been done before with characters from other lines that are known for a small size. I can think of several Atom figures from DC Comics collections that came with tiny versions of the hero, for example.

I'm not surprised that Greymatter's species is also possessed of high intelligence, despite their small size. There's something about the look of this guy that makes me think he'd just as soon stand at a podium in a classroom and give an incredibly dry lecture on some esoteric subject as crawl around inside a machine.

Some additional information on the Web Site, derived from a press kit: Greymatter is five inches tall, can squeeze into tight spaces and springs quickly from danger. His slimy skin sticks to walls and makes him hard to catch. When Ben is Greymatter, he finds that he is much smarter. Greymatter is very weak, small and easily trampled.

Let's hope Ben's smart enough not to get stepped on. Of course, the figure comes with an Animation Disc and a Lenticular Card, which reads, The typical Galvan is only five inches tall, with flexible bones that allow them to squeeze into tight spaces. Their slimy skin allows them to stick to almost any surface; it also makes them equally difficult to grab hold of.

Overall, Greymatter is a cool figure, and at 3" in height, is 60% life- size, which is certainly more than can be said about any of the other figures in this line -- thank goodness. I mean, heck, Fourarms is ten feet tall. I don't need a six-foot-tall Fourarms around here. I don't have the room...

CANNONBOLT - Cannonbolt is one of the newer additions to the Ben 10 Alien Collection, and unfortunately, the Web Site is pretty silent on most of these newer characters. Apparently they weren't as well "fleshed out" as the initial ten aliens that were part of the series more or less from the start.

The only real information I can offer on this character comes from the back of the Lenticular Card that comes with the figure, which tells is that Cannonbolt is a Vulpinic Tortugan, and states that while most Tortugans simply prefer to roll up and play possum, they can also be extremely aggressive, releasing a powerful chemical blast. Tortugans are able to transform into devastating projectiles strong enough to penetrate solid steel.

Yeah, I'd say that's a fair bet. Honestly, I'm almost surprised that Bandai was able to articulate this thing. It's a fairly weighty lump of plastic, more or less humanoid, except it doesn't really have a head. It's face seems to be in its chest. It's about 3-1/4" in height, but it's almost 4" wide.

Cannonbolt does a better-than-average job of matching Ben Tennyson's colors, in that almost the entire figure is white, with black trim mostly around these pale green circular areas on the shoulders, arms, and legs. The figure's back also has two large green areas. I'm honestly not sure if this is skin or some sort of carapace. The Omnitrix symbol is on the top of the figure's torso. Like I said, Cannonbolt doesn't so much have a head, as his face is in his upper torso.

The toy, almost incredibly, is articulated. The arms swivel and the legs move. The figure's arms are large, with clawed fingers, and one gets the impression that you wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of a punch from one of these things, assuming it could reach up far enough to throw a punch, and then even assuming that it could run fast enough to catch you on what are really pretty stubby legs. Small wonder they prefer to "roll up and play possum". But I can also see why you wouldn't want to tick one off, either. They're bulky, and if they have this ability to transform into a projectile strong enough to penetrate steel, then they have to have some speed, and I wouldn't want to be on the wrong end of something like that.

Definitely one of the stranger aliens in the collection, but I don't think I'd say that to Cannonbolt's face...

UPCHUCK - I told you there were worse names than Stinkfly. As with Cannonbolt, Upchuck is a newer alien, and so the Web Site doesn't really have a lot of details to offer, so once again we have to rely on the information presented on the Lenticular Card, which in this instance tells us that Upchuck is a Gourmand, and explains that Gourmands' acid- filled stomachs dissolve all matter into a a brew of combustible gasses and liquids that can be expelled at will with great accuracy. This bile has been proven to to be one of the most destructive and corrosive substances in the universe.

It's a peculiar fact that a lot of young boys seem to like gross things. As such, if Ben Tennyson falls into that description, then one might presume he gets a kick out of transforming into this particular character.

Upchuck -- well, frankly, I think he looks like a somewhat poorly designed green alien gerbil. He has a large, somewhat bulbous head, a rotund body, and rather stubby arms and even stubbier legs. He also has a curly green tail. In keeping with having some of Ben's clothing colors, Upchuck is outfitted in a mostly black costume with white shoulders and partially white sleeves, and some white trim around the legs. Interestingly, The Omnitrix symbol is on the left wrist. As far as I can determine, this is the only alien who has the Omnitrix symbol in the same place as where Ben himself wears the Omnitrix device.

Upchuck isn't the best articulated alien. He is poseable at the arms, legs, and tail. I honestly believe it wouldn't've been hard to articulate the head. Certainly the parts are big enough, and there's a very clear dividing line provided by the top of the costume, and the jawline of the head. So I really don't understand why Bandai didn't do this. I suppose there's going to be one cheap half-effort in a line as bizarre as this one is, and Upchuck is it.

Could've been worse, I suppose. Given his stated powers, at least they didn't incorporate an action feature. I don't need a figure with a "Power Fart" or "Projectile Puke" capability.

Honestly, this one just doesn't impress me as much. The character design itself looks more like the character belongs on one of Cartoon Network's sloppier efforts (take your pick, there's plenty to choose from), and even the figure isn't as well-articulated as it easily could have been. This one I've got only for the sake of reasonable completion of all of the established Alien Heroes in the line.

Let me say this in conclusion. I haven't been able to keep track of the animated series as well as I'd like. Cartoon Network's scheduling practices seem to be based on the television equivalent of Chaos Theory -- you never know what's going to turn up when. I will say that the overall concept is a cool one, the imagery looks decent, and this show is, in my opinion, one of Cartoon Network's very few really decent efforts.

As for the toys, the Web Site lists a number of characters that have yet to be made as figures. Among these are several characters named "Benmummy" and "Benvicktor", which strike me as unusual names since they both begin with "Ben", as well as several aliens that only appeared in the episode "Ben 10,000", which was an episode that featured an adult Ben Tennyson who had a lot more aliens to choose from.

It doesn't appear as though Bandai has plans to be making these figures. Of the remaining aliens that Ben is able to transform into, as of this writing, I am only lacking two -- Benwolf, who hasn't been released yet, and Ghostfreak, who has, but is apparently very difficult to locate. I'm hoping he might be repacked into the assortment that I suspect contains Benwolf. The character does still appear on the package back showcasing all figures available.

Apart from that, the Web Site does list Bandai's plans for forthcoming figures in this 4" scale Alien Collection, and I'm sorry to say that they're pretty unimpressive. Apart from a figure of Ben's cousin Gwen, Bandai will be making "Battle" versions of a number of the established aliens, including Heatblast, Diamondhead, Upgrade, Fourarms, Stinkfly, XLR8, Wildmutt, and Ghostfreak. Based on the pictures of the ones available, these appear to be recolors and partial remolds with the characters powers active -- and unfortunately the figures shown look to be a lot more pre-posed, as well. Of the entire lot, the only one that might be of interest to me is Diamondhead, who appears to have his head and limbs molded in translucent colored plastic. That looks sort of cool. But as a general rule, I don't care for remakes, especially pre-posed ones, and in this instance, don't see a lot of need to add them to my collection.

While I'm pleased that the line is continuing, since it is a cool concept and Bandai, as a rule, makes excellent action figures, I think once I'm able to acquire Benwolf and the ORIGINAL Ghostfreak, I'll be done until such time as new characters are added to the collection. But don't worry, I'll still review the remaining Aliens that need to be done.

And on the whole, I certainly give my definite and enthusiastic recommendation of the BEN 10 ALIEN COLLECTION of 4" scale figures for anyone who enjoys the show! And as a quick postscript, clearly Ben 10 is regarded as a hit, because Cartoon Network has produced a LIVE-ACTION BEN 10 MOVIE that is scheduled to air in November 2007!