Weekly Animation Round-up: Ben 10 Welcomes Aziz Ansari, The Clone Wars Forgets, and Green Lantern Goes Steampunk

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Jan 05, 2013

DC Nation is back! And while Cartoon Network and/or DC Entertainment continue to behave as if suddenly pulling two shows from the air for three months and not even informing those shows’ producers is totally normal (and it may very well be... in Bizarro World!!!), we’re just glad to have them back! While Green Lantern: The Animated Series is still in the round-up, we’re moving Young Justice to its own standalone review.

What’s in store for this week? Ben 10: Omniverse did the well-trodden “de-aging the characters” plot, Star Wars: The Clone Wars found a clone trooper with amnesia, and Green Lantern: The Animated Series went steampunk.

Ben 10: Omniverse S01E16: "Arrested Development"

Sometimes all you need is a good guest star to make an episode go from “passable” to “interesting” and that’s exactly what happened in “Arrested Development” thanks to Aziz Ansari’s presence as Billy Billions. The character felt tailor-made for Ansari’s particular style of delivery: Over-confident-but-generally-competent-fool, prone to big line readings, while also knowing exactly when to grumble a good throwaway line into a nice moment. That’s Ansari’s image, and that was Billy Billions. It was the perfect melding of actor and role. Which is good because de-aging the main characters on a show is a pretty standard plot, and it needed a little extra pizzaz.

Which isn’t to say that the de-aging plot wasn’t out of place here. As this series of Ben 10 is showing a concern with Ben’s past—albeit a past that’s been manufactured for this series, as opposed to pre-established stories, but I’m letting that aspect of it go (really, I am!)—the de-aging and the return of an unknown rival fed into this desire to explore and complicate Ben’s past. And while I wish the show would dig deeper into those elements, I understand it’s not completely the writers' focus or desire to develop Ben too much, or too quickly.

If there’s one other thing that made this episode fun, it was the use of Billy as a twisted version of Richie Rich, the 1950s comic book character, and later star of an animated series and a live-action film with Macaulay Culkin. While I’m not sure if the show’s intended audience would pick up on it, I chuckled at the redone R-slash-dollar sign logo, the oversized bow tie, and the caring robot bodyguard Mazuma standing in place of Irona. It gave the episode a nice layer of humorous nostalgia.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S05E12: "Missing in Action"

After the previous episode’s more experimental approach (which, upon further reflection and a rewatch, I liked even more than I did when it aired), “Missing in Action” was a return to a more standard sort of Clone Wars episode, complete with a big shootout and a (plot-convienent) self-sacrificing clone.

Gregor’s presence in the episode is something that I wish was expanded more. While the amnesia aspect was certainly easily written through, and solved as well, a longer exploration of the implied trauma from the Battle of Sarrish associated with the amnesia would have given the episode a nice hook beyond the “we need a proper soldier to help us commandeer the shuttle” aspect. Indeed, the entire existence of Gregor and his being lost in the galaxy brought to mind Karen Traviss’s sadly unfinished Republic Commando book series, and the way it explored the lives of the clones during the war.

That being said, Dee Bradley Baker turned in a really nice performance as Gregor. It started off as a softer version of the standard clone trooper voice before it hardened back into the more recognizable version. It was a subtle but nice touch to help give Gregor an aural transformation in addition to his visual one after he shaved his head and beard.

Gascon seems to have mellowed some from his time in the void, though he still came off as full of hot air, especially as he dealt with the Sullustan diner owner. The humility he’s learned over the course of the mission wasn’t always on display, but I like that he’s at least more willing to listen to the droids and their recommendations than he was at the start of it. Hopefully Gregor’s sacrifice is the pin that completely pops that balloon.

Green Lantern: The Animated Series S01E16: "Steam Lantern"

“Steam Lantern” handily picked up right where we left off before the sudden DC Nation hiatus with Hal falling through a rift in universe and ending up in... a Steampunk-inspired world.

I’m sort of over Steampunk as a genre, but I really enjoyed this particular episode. Perhaps it was because the planet of the week had a bit more personality than most other planets of the week have had in the past, or maybe it was the use of the word “barmy,” or maybe it was the flirty-flirty between Gil and Catherine that felt way less forced than the flirty-flirty between Hal and Carol, or maybe it was Hal transporting the entire planet from one universe to another in a moment of sheer awesome, both in terms of being a superhero and animation work. Probably it was all of the above.

But it was also the expansion of the show’s universe. While the Anti-Monitor’s presence in the series has implied the presence of DC’s multiverse, the episode granted us confirmation that, at the very least, Alan Scott (the Green Lantern Gil spoke of who wore a red shirt and had a cape) exists in this show, and, like with the deeper look at Oa, it showed that Green Lantern is eager to expand its scope. Yes, the first 13 episodes were really about establishing the universe, but they also tended toward the generic "space adventure" plots with DC-inspired aspects grafted on, and sometimes clunkily so. With the Anti-Monitor and the Manhunter robots, there’s something richer for the show to craft stories around, a sense of history, and while Hal is a great Green Lantern, he—like the audience—doesn’t know what’s in store, and that’s pretty exciting.

DC Nation Short: The first installment of the Thunder and Lighting shorts, featuring Black Lightning and his eponymous daughters. There's not much to say about this since it was very establish-y, but I liked the tone and style of the short, and I’m all for a series that focuses not only on two young girls being heroes, but two young girls of color as well. I’m eager for more.

A bit of housekeeping: We're switching back to a weekend round-up for the foreseeable future, instead of publishing it on Monday/Tuesday in order to include Adventure Time. The decision has nothing to do with Adventure Time’s quality, which isn’t the issue at all; our pageviews simply suggest that you'd rather read about the weekend shows over the weekend and you don't care as much about Adventure Time—if that's not the case, let's hear it in the comments!

This month, we’re keeping the shows reviewed above in the round-up, along with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and My Little Pony when they return. We're also going to try Young Justice as a standalone review. As always, we welcome your feedback!

What'd you think of this week's episodes?

  • Comments (23)
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  • mojoboy31 Jan 07, 2013

    You should review Adventure Time, and Regular Show, and maybe a few others in a separate article.

  • axs Jan 07, 2013

    Will Adventure Time still get a review though. I liked them! It get can paired with The Looney Tunes Show and The Regular Show. Keeping the Weekend shows on the weekend, does make more sense though.

  • JT_Kirk Jan 06, 2013

    Clone Wars... So, we're just going to overlook the fact that when the previous episode ended, it was on a colorless, empty ghost town-type environment and when this ep starts it's basically Mos Eisley Spaceport in white and with Battle Droids playing the role of Sandtroopers? That drove me NUTS. This was an interesting episode, it just had next to nothing to do with the last two.

    While we've done the "lost clone" bit on the show before (although not via amnesia), I liked this one and would have preferred a longer storyline focusing on that aspect instead of just jumping from idea to idea with contrived plot devices pushing it through. Dee Bradley Baker did a great job here, thanks for focusing on that, even during the episode I was checking his IMDB to see what weightier works he's done since this shows he clearly has the chops for it (the answer, surprisingly, seems to be none more nuanced than this, that deserves to change).

    Gascon's side of things really didn't work any better for me than before though, he blusters into a diner which gets a starving man kicked out and eating garbage (with HUGE teethmarks from him, he must unhinge his whole jaw) and then his big strategy involves stomping into the enemy stronghold which gets a guy killed, chiefly because said guy didn't have any grenades I suppose since they obviously would have done the job. And then the weird ending where he's delivering a message one moment about a soldier's job to sacrifice (not a very complete message to give the kiddies either) and then the next moment looking for Gregor's return was all a mess. Oh, and lest I forget again, Gascon sends the astromech - keepers of all the weapons and the big prize for the mission - out on PATROL alone with no backup! This guy officially sucks at life, to borrow a term from the internet.

    Anyway, C for effort, not a terrible episode but way too compressed storyline and a shift in locale from the previous episode, yet still a step up from previous which differs from Noel's ability to watch twice. ;-)


    DC Nation Shorts were a total miss, both were female-oriented which is just stacking the deck, and both were merely setup episodes offering no actual story or action or anything - one thing I like about DC Nation Shorts is that if you don't like one, there's a different one coming. I don't mind gal-focused heroes, but having both as such seems like it's actively pandering. I found Thunder & Lightning really grating as characters which is ultimately the downfall here (Amethyst was at least an interesting idea, but I'll get to that in the YJ review I suppose).


    I like the idea of having Saturday shows talked about on the weekend when the site has very little content. If more weekday or Adult Swim shows appear during the week, perhaps that would be where Adventure Time reviews could go.

  • noelrk Staff Jan 06, 2013

    Gascon's a horrible field commander. He should totally remain an map-maker/analyst. Jack Ryan he is not.

    Like you, an entire arc for Gregor would've likely been a delight, but the demands of the action show intrude. Ah well.

    Baker's all over the place. If you want to see him with something meaty, did you watch Korra? He voices Tarrlok in that, and it's a damn fine performance. Lots of slimey, emotional layers going on there.

    I'm not crazy about the serialized approach for the shorts, either, unless they conclude in the same hour, like the Vibe story did. I also don't mind a little pandering, either. Considering that the comics are pretty much not about targeting a female audience, it's nice to see some parts of the DC brand trying to appeal to them.

  • JT_Kirk Jan 07, 2013

    Let's just shorten that to "Gascon's horrible" and leave it at that. ;-)

    Wait, the demands of an action show would keep a story about a battle-ravaged clone commando losing his memory, being enslaved yet possibly also cared for by a diner cook, and regaining his sense of purpose would be intrusion; while the hopping around Napoleon-complex inept frog-man gets a 4-episode arc, one of which is an episode where nothing happens for the entire 22 minutes? What priorities are those for an action/adventure show?

    I haven't watched Korra yet, I didn't put any attention into Avatar until I was sitting through its finale panel at Comic-Con a few years ago (I just wanted good seats for the next panel, but Avatar proved to be interesting). I did catch Baker as Klaus on American Dad though. Sounds like he's finally getting his due as a voice actor this season with nuance in Clone Wars and Korra though.

    The shorts as serial are a risky thing, how do you have them crop up off of a schedule yet serialize them? How do you catch up an audience who missed a previous episode when you have only a minute or two to tell this week's story? Perhaps if they aired 3 shorts in the hour instead of 2, or did a whole 15 minute mini-show of shorts every week, but otherwise then your point on Vibe is on the money - start it and end it within the same block or GTFO.

    I have no problem with branching out to new markets, just not usurping both precious resources to that same new market, that's what bugs me and stinks of pandering. I find the Super Best Friends Forever generally watchable, moreso than World's Funniest which are nearly always repetitive nonsense.

  • JT_Kirk Jan 06, 2013

    Oh yeah, WAC made me laugh one time, a trait he seems to be able to do in every episode so far, be funny once.
    Gascon to droids: "Save yourselves!"
    WAC: "Ok!"

  • mcepin3 Jan 06, 2013

    only watched SW:TCW this week and another painful episode like the last one. Boring,cheesy and torture to watch. If I was amused by Wac-47 and that map navigator in first episode,after these 2 last episodes of Clone Wars, I can't stand them anymore:D I am actually rooting that someone goes and kills them on spot. No torture,just plain and simple kill them.
    And whole Gregor plot didn't work for me. As they do with Grievous,that any jedi can stand against him,if needed, so did here Gregor stand ALONE against ALL THOSE small "army". Even though he is just a CLONE FFS!!! Firing coming from all sides and he is f-ing Rambo...too much is sometimes just that...TOO MUCH! And whole slave thing....he IS a slave to Republic. So he would be better washing dishes. I never was fan of either Repulic and Empire(or Separatits) side...I get my "geek on" from Jedi and Sith:D Let Republic burn or the other side...will never care about those....that's why comics Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi are so awsome atm for me.

  • EsmeBuffay Jan 06, 2013

    I really hope this story arc with the droids will end soon.

  • noelrk Staff Jan 06, 2013

    Next week is the conclusion to the arc.

  • EsmeBuffay Jan 06, 2013

    Good, I'm sick of the little frog/slug dude.

  • noelrk Staff Jan 06, 2013

    Eek. That's too bad. The next arc is about him fighting Darth Maul. (I'm only kidding.)

  • antdude Jan 07, 2013

    Jumping the shark. Hahah!

    Yeah, this arc sucks and is too long. Ugh!!

  • EsmeBuffay Jan 07, 2013

    Good lord you almost gave me a heart attack!

  • JusticeLeaguer Jan 06, 2013

    I'm all for the weekend animation round-up focusing on just weekend shows. Although it'd be cool if Adventure Time & Regular Show got a combined review on their own.

  • AllieAllie Jan 06, 2013

    I like this idea a lot. Then we'd still be able to get reviews for non weekend shows

  • MicahSmith3 Jan 06, 2013

    That's an old episode of GL... I saw that months ago!

  • JusticeLeaguer Jan 06, 2013

    Well then you either saw it from iTunes when they accidentally released it or you watched it illegally online. Because the episode only premiered today.

  • MicahSmith3 Jan 06, 2013

    Who watches tv any more? It's so much easier to watch online. I got rid of cable 7 years ago. I plugged my desktop into my 46 inch tv and use it as a monitor! Between iTunes, Netflix and Hulu you have almost everything on demand.

  • noelrk Staff Jan 06, 2013

    TV writers still watch TV. Otherwise, how would you get quick turnaround on things to read? We'd have to wait for it appear online, and sometimes that can take additional hours, days, or even weeks depending on the license owner.

    And, really, plenty of people still watch TV. Are there alternative means? Yes, but they also rely on having access to high speed Internet (often still provided by a cable company!) which isn't always a option in some areas.

  • perualonso1 Jan 06, 2013

    I thought today's Omniverse episode was awesome, especially the minute I saw Ben and Rook as kids.

  • noelrk Staff Jan 06, 2013

    Rook was especially adorable.

  • GCCHumanBeing Jan 05, 2013

    I think MLP:FIM should get a stand alone review! Though, very excited for the Young Justice reviews.

  • layton2012 Jan 05, 2013

    Not going to lie I will miss the Adventure Time review, but as long as you review Korra when it eventually returns, I'll be good.