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By Thomas Wheeler

The popularity of the animated franchise on Cartoon Network known as "Ben 10" continues with a new series titled "Ben 10: Omniverse".

The series is the fourth installment in the Ben 10 franchise. Man of Action (a group consisting of Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, and Steven T. Seagle) created the franchise, all four series, including the original Ben 10 and all of its sequel series, including Ben 10: Omniverse. The newest series was announced at Cartoon Network's Upfront in 2011.

The series follows the adventures of a sixteen-year-old Ben Tennyson, bearer of the Omnitrix, a watch-like device that allows Ben to change into aliens, who teams up with an alien named Rook, a rookie and a by-the-book partner. On a mission to explore a secret alien city, Ben explores the quirkier side of things in the alien underground and discovers that enemies from his past are looking for a rematch. All the while, Ben becomes targeted by a mysterious hunter, known as Khyber.

And somehow in the midst of all this, the sixteen-year-old Ben that we have known from the past two series encounters his ten-year-old counterpart from the original series.

I tend to believe that the reason the show is called "Ben 10 Omniverse" is because "Ben 10: Continuity Hell" didn't sound too good to the marketing staff.

The human characters in the show have undergone a substantial redesign. Despite the fact that this design is described as an "homage" to the original, I really have some trouble seeing that, myself, and frankly, I'm not that crazy about it. On the other hand, the alien characters have always tended to be all over the map, designwise, so a significant redesign of the show isn't going to impact them as greatly.

Of course, there's a line of toys from Bandai, the focal point for me, as always, being the 4" line of articulated action figures. These have started to turn up, and one of the first ones that I've brought in is a fellow by the name of ROOK.

Technically, Rook isn't one of the alien heroes that Ben Tennyson is able to transform into using the Omnitrix. He's Ben's new sidekick, a fellow "Plumber", the name for the various agents that strive to deal with assorted alien insurgents and villains.

According to some information that I obtained from a "Wiki"-style Ben 10 fan site: "Ben 10 is back with a new look, a new Omnitrix, and a brand-new show. Ben is all set to be a solo hero after Gwen and Kevin left, but Grandpa Max teams him up with a rookie, by-the-book partner. Together they explore a secret alien city. Meanwhile, a mysterious hunter sets his sights on Ben!"

That new rookie partner is Rook, whose full name is Rook Blonco. There wasn't a lot of information to be had on him, but I managed to track down some information.

Rook Blonko is Ben's new partner in Ben 10: Omniverse. He is a Revonnahgander from the planet Revonnah. Who comes up with some of these names!?

Rook is a violet-skinned alien with a blue and black armor with white face paint and black stripes over his face, and has pointed elf-like ears. He carries the Proto-Tool on his shoulder and wears a bluish Proto-Tech Armor.

Rook uses various Plumber weapons and technology, such as the Proto-Tool to battle. It has also been shown that he has some acrobatic skills. He also has very durable armor called Proto-Tech Armor. He is also a master strategist in battle and tactics.

When Rook first met Ben in the episode "The More Things Change: Part 1", he was respectful of Ben, mentioning that he heard all about him in the Plumbers Academy. Unlike Ben, Rook is more stoic and prefers to think before acting. He seems to treat Ben more like a superior instead of a friend/partner as he usually addresses him as "Sir"'. While he is very intelligent, his lack of experience can make him somewhat naive and immune to most of Ben's jokes.

So, how's the figure? Very nicely done, really. The Ben 10 line of action figures is a 4" line, but it's not really a 4" SCALE line. Some of the alien heroes that Ben can transform into are almost microscopically small, or massively huge. That'd be a little difficult to stock on the shelves and pegs. So a relatively common size for all of the figures, regardless of their sizes in the series, was determined by Bandai to be the best way to go.

Rook is actually a little short. Put a ruler next to him and he measures 3-1/2". However, I think it's reasonable to assume that he is one of the aliens that is to scale with the humans in the action figure line, such as Ben.

Not surprisingly, Rook is fairly straightforward humanoid-looking, although clearly not actually human, in appearance. One wouldn't want to give young Mr. Tennyson a sidekick so unusual that it would overshadow the alien forms that he himself turns into.

Rook's overall bodily proportions show him to be a fairly slender, reasonable evenly proportioned humanoid. Some allowances have to be made for the design style of the show, and the fact that he is an alien. You wouldn't be able to fit Rook in with your G.I. Joe or Star Wars figures all that easily. He has a somewhat bulky upper chest and shoulders relative to the rest of his body, and rather long arms, but none of these proportions are especially extreme.

Rook has a relatively humanoid-looking head. As the online description states, Rook's skin color is a pale lavender. He has three black stripes over the top of his head which I take to be hair, as well as another such spot on his chin, which I suppose could be a goatee. However, also as stated, his face has been painted white, and there's some black striping here which extends from the chin, so it might or might not be facial hair.

Rook has a pushed-in, barely visible nose, apparent only because it's outlined in black. Bandai has done something rather interesting with Rook. Rather than painting the facial details, I believe they have been imprinted onto the figure in some fashion. I've seen this before, and I've seen it from Bandai. One notable example of it would be the eyes of their large-scale ThunderCats Classics figures -- a line that I dearly wish had fared better.

But in Rook's case, the entire facial details have been imprinted. This includes the outline around the nose and mouth, as well as around some of the white face paint around the jaw. Additionally, Rook's eyes have been imprinted. They are outlined in black, and the "whites" of the eyes are actually yellow, with orange irises and black pupils. It's been very neatly done.

Rook's uniform is mostly black, with very precise sculpted detailing that has been painted in dark blue and pale gray. The uniform almost has a sort of "Tron" look to it, but not quite. What is very impressive is how neatly the details have been painted. They have to line up very precisely with sculpted guidelines on the figure itself, which have also been sculpted with considerable precision, and the figure has indeed been painted very neatly. It's been my experience that Bandai has some of the neatest painters in the business, and Rook is certainly a superb example of this.

Painted details include not only what I suspect is some protective, dark blue, interwoven armor on Rook's uniform, but various light gray equipment pouches that appear on Rook's lower arms, upper and lower legs, and around his waist.

Since Rook isn't one of the aliens that Ben Tennyson actually transforms into, he's not actually wearing the Omnitrix symbol anywhere on his body or uniform. However, it does appear, very small, on the futuristic firearm that Rook comes equipped with. This is a very nicely detailed little piece, mostly light gray with some black trim, and the green and black "hourglass" Omnitrix emblem on both sides. Fortunately, Rook can keep a decent grip on it in his left hand, because this is one of those little accessories that has the phrase "easily lost" frequently associated with it.

The gun is also Rook's only accessory. Many of the aliens in the Ben 10 Omniverse line come with miniature sculptures of themselves, which can be used with some new toy called the "Omnitrix Challenge" -- which itself apparently comes with 10 miniature alien "statues" of its own, but since Rook doesn't really qualify as an Omnitrix alien, he comes with the firearm.

The figure's articulation is excellent. Rook is nicely poseable at the head, arms, elbows, legs, and knees. Sometimes with these Ben 10 figures, you never quite know what you're going to get articulation-wise. Admittedly, some of them are so extreme, that Bandai just has to do what they can to allow the character to move somewhat, without costing him too much of his likeness.

So, what's my final word? Personally, I think the animated series shouldn't have done such a massive redesign of the human characters, and can we get a bottle of aspirin to the writers that are going to have to sort out the kinds of continuity nightmares that always happen with time-travel stories or however they're playing this?

But, there's nothing wrong with the alien characters. They still work well with the toy line as a whole, and Rook is an interesting new addition to the cast. His figure is cool, as well, and I believe any longtime -- or new -- fan of Ben 10 will be pleased with him.

The BEN 10: OMNIVERSE figure of ROOK definitely has my most enthusiastic recommendation!