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By Thomas Wheeler

Ben10 continues to be an immensely popular animated series, not only in the United States, but around the world. And Bandai continues to produce a popular series of action figures and other toys based on the concept.

In 2011, they came out with an interesting new series of figures. Called "Haywire", they were popular alien heroes from the line, but recolored. Basically, the premise was that something had gone slightly wrong with the Ultimatrix device that Ben Tennyson used to transform into the various alien heroes, altering their color schemes to those of other heroes.

Although it wasn't a premise that had ever appeared in the cartoon, it was a way for Bandai to get a second use out of the extremely varied, and doubtless rather expensive, figure molds. However, a number of the molds have received yet another use, one not as well known to the American fans, since the figures in question have not been released in the United States. Rather, they are exclusive to Europe and Asia.

Ben 10 is an international phenomenon, and as a commemoration of that, Bandai has produced a limited edition of a number of Ben 10 figures, in GOLD-colored plastic. And thanks to an international friend of mine, I came into possession of quite a number of these figures, three of which I will present in this review.

Let's consider the history of the Ben 10 concept first. Ben 10 was created by "Man of Action" (a group consisting of Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, and Steven T. Seagle), and produced by Cartoon Network Studios. The animated franchise is about a boy who acquires a watch-like alien device called the Omnitrix (later the Ultimatrix) attached to his wrist that allows him to turn into alien heroes. In April 2008, Ben 10 (the original television series) was succeeded by Ben 10: Alien Force, which itself was succeeded in April 2010 by Ben 10: Ultimate Alien.

This review will take a look at the gold versions of RATH, AMPFIBIAN, and WATER HAZARD. Let's start with RATH - mostly because this guy has a pretty short temper and I really don't want to keep him waiting...

Rath is an Appoplexian from the planet Appoplexia. Resembling large, muscle-bound, humanoid tigers with no tails, Appoplexians suffer from aggressive temperaments and decreased intelligence, having a need to fight. As a result, the use of Rath alters Ben's personality more than his other alien forms, become easily distracted and difficult to stop once he starts fighting. Rath always refers to someone by using both full names regardless of the situation and his mannerisms and speech are reminiscent of a professional wrestler. He also refers to himself in the third person. He knows that his metaphorical statements make no sense, but continues to use them. He is very direct and fearless to the point of recklessness; also his apparent lack of intelligence also may convince him to needlessly argue with inanimate objects.

However, Rath is more than able to back up his threats and is one of Ben's most powerful aliens, as his species is gifted with enough physical agility and strength to easily lift objects far larger than him, and pummeling most of Ben's enemies with ease. In addition, Rath has two retractable claws on his wrists that can generate shockwaves when driven into objects, and he is also durable enough to survive for short periods in space and take a powerful laser cannon blast at point blank range without even flinching or reacting.

So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive. This is actually the third version of Rath in my collection. I'll admit, I like tigers, and Rath is -- sort of a tiger. Besides, the original version of this figure was impossible to miss on the shelves. It was molded in a bright, intense orange that the average traffic cone only aspires to. Rath has a light gray muzzle and chest, as well as hands and feet, with black stripes painted on the orange sections of his body, and immense black claws coming out of the backs of his hands.

The second version of Rath was part of the Haywire series, where he changed colors with another Ben 10 alien hero by the name of Lodestar. This gave the Haywire Rath a mostly black body, with a dark gray muzzle, chest, hands, and feet, with yellow stripes and claws. While not necessarily an improvement over the original, it was certainly an extremely cool version of the character, and the color scheme actually managed to make him look more menacing -- like some sort of "Mirror Universe" version, perhaps.

So how about the gold version? Well, it's no less imposing in overall appearance, but it is quite a bit less detailed in color. Admittedly, this is the nature of these gold Ben 10 figures. They're supposed to be gold. Which they are.

Rath, as described, is certainly one of the more musclebound characters in the series, and these have a tendency to have a slight similarity in design. They usually have massive upper bodies and arms, and relatively small legs. Rath is no exception to this. His lower arms alone are as long as his legs, and much thicker.

Rath has a face that's somewhere between human and feline, with a pushed in, catlike nose, pointed ears that seem to taper out from tufts above his eyes, and a jutting jaw with two teeth protruding from his lower jaw.

His neck and shoulders are pretty much synonymous, and he has a massive chest and huge, muscular arms, tapering to a narrower waist, and the relatively slender, but still rather muscular legs, which end in maw-like, three-toed feet. His huge hands are more humanoid in appearance, although having only three fingers and a thumb each, with the single large claw protruding from behind the middle finger.

Obviously, the gold version of Rath is lacking in stripes, or a different-colored muzzle and chest. What's interesting, however, us that the stripes are still there, in a sense. Since this Rath figure obviously uses the same molds as the first two incarnations, when Bandai designed this figure, they sculpted fine, indented guidelines on the figure for the stripes! As such, if you look close, you can see that Rath still has his stripes. They're just the same color as the rest of him this time around.

There is some painted detail on Rath, in keeping with the other figures in the gold series. His eyes are bright green, outlined in black, which tapers back to the ears in this case. And the hourglass-like Omnitrix emblem on his chest has also been painted.

Rather is very well articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, legs, and knees. I'm especially pleased to have this particular gold Ben 10 figure, since I do have the other two versions of Rath, and he makes an interesting addition to the group.

Now let's consider the gold version of AMPFIBIAN. Here's some background on the character.

AmpFibian is an Amperi from the planet Amperia scanned from Ra'ad in "Fused"; from the Andromeda Galaxy.

AmpFibian is a blue jellyfish-like alien with six tentacles. He has the ability to generate and drain electricity from his tentacles; can sense the electrical pulses in the minds of other life forms, allowing him to read their thoughts; turn intangible, stretch all of his tentacles, and absorb and redirect energy beams. AmpFibian can also travel through air, water, and electronic currents by turning his body into electricity.

Though unintentionally first used in "Fused", where Ra'ad entered Ben's body during the DNA scan in a freak accident in an attempt to take the Ultimatrix offline to evade Aggregor; which explains that the first time, he had blue eyes and had a voice that sounds just like Ben's but it has the effect of being phase-shifted because of Ra'ad. The first intentional use was in "Deep", to breathe under water on the planet Piscciss, where this time he has green eyes.

So, how's the figure? Really very nicely done. I tend to believe that the Ben 10 line as a whole presents something of a challenge to Bandai's designers. Not only do they have to take characters that have been rendered in traditional, two-dimensional animation, and find some way to make workable, three-dimensional action figures out of them -- but some of these characters aren't especially humanoid. I'm honestly not sure whether that sort of thing presents a greater challenge than designing a more humanoid character, but at the very least, it likely keeps things interesting.

AmpFibian is one of those characters that's not entirely humanoid, although certainly there have been Ben 10 aliens that are further removed from that basic form than this. Still, AmpFibian is pretty bizarre. The top half or so of his body looks like three layered versions of some sort of gelatinous substance. Below this is a sort of thorax-like body, with two relatively humanoid legs emerging from it. To the sides are four tentacles, which for the figure have been designed as a pair of arms, two to each articulation point.

The top layer has two bright green eyes, and the second layer has the symbol of the Omnitrix embedded in it. The original color scheme for AmpFibian was light blue and off white. The top half of the figure was molded in light blue, with these thick, rather uneven but symmetrical streaks of white painted into them, while the lower body and the arms were molded in white, with patterns of blue painted into them.

There was a "Haywire" version of AmpFibian, but I didn't really consider the color scheme, matching the dark green of Ultimate Humungousaur, to be an improvement, so I didn't acquire that figure.

As to the gold AmpFibian, he's very interesting. Since he lacks the color scheme of his predecessor, he somehow looks a little less jellyfish-like, and somehow more solid. What makes that interesting is that, as such, he looks even more alien. One can sort of identify the standard AmpFibian as being based on a jellyfish. It's not as easy with the gold one.

Much like the gold Rath, Bandai did sculpt guidelines, or in this case, indentations into the figure, for the placement of the paint, and of course, these remain. But unpainted, and since they are indentations, they manage to make the gold AmpFibian look even more alien still, especially the layered top half.

AmpFibian's eyes have been painted bright green, with a black outline, just as before, and of course the Onmitrix symbol has also been painted.

AmpFibian has good articulation given what an unusual character he is. He is poseable at the -- head -- that is, the top layer of his upper body, arms, legs, and knees. Each of his arms is really two arms, but they move along a single joint, both back and forth as well as outwards. I wouldn't even know where you could put elbows on this design.

Overall, it's an impressive figure, that translates better than some into the gold motif.

Finally, let's consider WATER HAZARD

Water Hazard is an Orishan from the planet Hydrosia scanned from Bivalvan in the episode "Fame"; from the Andromeda Galaxy.

Water Hazard is a red, crustacean-like alien of bivalve origin. He is able to shoot pressurized water from his palms, as well as absorb ambient moisture from the air by manipulate the water; has a highly durable armored exoskeleton which protects his body from most types of damage, including moderate amounts of radiation; has enhanced strength and can breathe underwater for a period of time. Water Hazard first appeared in "Too Hot to Handle".

So, how's the figure? Very interesting, especially when one considers how relatively normal the overall proportions are -- for a cartoon alien -- but certainly relative to some of the other aliens in the line -- see my reference about more musclebound characters like Rath, and given how alien Water Hazard is in and of himself.

The original Water Hazard has a burgundy exoskeleton that had black upper arms, some other black trim, and some gray trim on it, and his face was burgundy with gray trim, so he was hardly a solid color, but neither was he the most colorful Ben 10 alien ever. Still one of the more interesting designs.

Water Hazard's head is distinctly non-humanoid. It has a rather insect-like appearance to it, with two eyes widely separated on either side of the front of the face. The rest of the head has a rather segmented look to it. There is no visible nose, and only a small feature in the lower center of the face that might qualify as a mouth.

His head is surrounded on all sides except for the front by a huge, curved carapace that is part of his overall exoskeleton. I'm honestly not certain if the head is poseable. I couldn't quite get sufficient access to the head to try to move it. The gold plastic used on these figures is just translucent enough so that I could see that the head was a separately molded piece. Of course, on the original Water Hazard figure, the head was a different color than the rest of the body, so that only made sense. That doesn't mean that the head necessarily moves. As I said, I'm just not sure.

The rest of Water Hazard is surprisingly humanoid. The arms, although somewhat larger than the legs, are not as disproportionate as some by any means, and although the chest is distinctly larger than the mid or lower torso, some of this can be explained by the upper part of the exoskeleton.

Water Hazard's exoskeleton has distinct shoulder ridges that remind me a lot of some of Iron Man's armor designs from the 1970's and 1980's. His arms are rather slender, but he has huge ridged and spiked gauntlets on his hands, which end in segmented, three-fingered hands, with thumbs.

Water Hazard's legs are comparatively normal, although he does have fairly big feet, with a spike at the tip of each boot, and several more upward pointing spikes on the back of each leg, not unlike Batman's gloves.

As with the other gold series figures, the only painted details on Water Hazard are his eyes, bright green, outlined in black, and the Omnitrix emblem on the chest. Water Hazard is very nicely articulated, poseable at the arms, elbows, legs, knees -- and just maybe the head.

All three figures come with small statues of themselves, with disc-like bases, that work with a kid-sized device based on the Ultimatrix. Like the figures themselves, these accessories are gold-colored.

So, what's my final word? Okay, you're not going to walk into Walmart or Toys "R" Us and find these figures -- not if you live in North America, anyway. If it hadn't been for my overseas friend, I wouldn't have even known they exist. But, if you're a longtime fan of the Ben 10 concept, and especially if you've been a collector of the 4" Alien Force line over the years, then these interesting and unusual figures are definitely worth trying to track down. They're as well made as the originals, and they're certainly distinctive, and there's quite a few of them out there, well beyond those that I have reviewed here.

The GOLD SERIES figures from BEN 10, including RATH, AMPFIBIAN, and WATER HAZARD, definitely have my enthusiastic recommendation!