Happy Saturday, and welcome back to the animation round-up! This week, Ben 10: Omniverse visited Rook’s home planet, Star Wars: The Clone Wars wrapped up the D-squad arc, and Green Lantern: The Animated Series got the band back together and introduced a new Blue Lantern.
Rook hass easily been my favorite thing about Ben 10: Omniverse, so an episode devoted to fleshing him out a bit was a welcomed one. But "Bros in Space" was sort of wheezy and tired, as episodes about people returning to their agrarian homes go.
Rook, it turns out, has been the black sheep of his family since he left Revonnah to become a Plumber, a move that sat none too well with his dad, who quickly fell into the traditionalist, disappointed parental figure role, complaining about heritage-denying and annoying offworlders. You’ve seen it a gazillion times, and there was a de-thawing of Rook and his father's relationship by the end as Rook assisted in fighting off the muroids (the only predators that seemed to exist on the planet) and saving the amber ogia harvest (a true super crop that can be food, fuel, made into tables, whatever).
I may’ve been less bored by the episode if Fistrick hadn’t been around and training the muroids to steal the amber ogia, because the tensions between Rook and his father, the presence of a large family, and the fact that Rook seemed to be a real ladies’ man offered lots of opportunities for interesting stories that the episode half-baked or outright ignored in favor of the action sequences.
Yes, this is an action show, but there are all sorts of types of action to explore, and it was possible to just have the muroids be a threat without Fistrick and his starbeam platform, while still exploring Rook’s roots.
Much to the delight of likely all of you who read this, the D-squad arc has concluded, as Gascon and the droids managed to stop a hijacked Republic cruiser from colliding with, and blowing up, a strategy conference that the Republic was holding in the Cardia system.
I liked this arc. Yes, Gascon annoyed me to practically no end with his overcompensating puffery and bravado, but this storyline has given us an interesting break from Jedi and clone troopers, with imaginative bits of action, including here in "Point of No Return," particularly R2’s chasing of the buzz droid followed by the buzz droid swarm and BZ’s sacrifice. And how about that explosion? Pretty epic explosion. It demonstrated an inventiveness on the writers’, storyboarders’, and directors’ parts in staging action sequences that lack lightsabers and blasters, and in that regard, the D-squad arc was engaging.
Likewise, the arc showed that, Gascon aside, it's possible to keep a compelling narrative moving with droids, and not even R2 too much until this week. WAC, while a bit annoying at the start, came into his own as a character by "Into the the Void." I won’t say that he completely managed to keep Gascon’s foolishness in check, but he at least provided an alternative perspective. Imagine this arc without WAC, and I think we’d all be cringing.
But, hey, if you didn’t like this, you get Darth Maul and the Death Watch starting next week. You guys really like Darth Maul, right?
I’d been wondering where Razer was hiding out, and it made a pleasant amount of sense to see him on Odym with the burgeoning Blue Lantern Corps. Not only did his Red Lantern ring not work there, but he was also trying to learn how to control his rage and anger (though not very successfully).
So while the whole team was back together by the end of the episode, let’s talk a little a bit about robots. Aya’s been a problematic character for me in this series, as it often treats as both a “her” and an “it.” And while the conflation of women as objects isn’t exactly a new thing to any sort of media, it's a little troubling in GL:TAS since the series wants us to think of Aya as a female character (indeed, the show’s most prominent one) but also wants to reserve the right to inflict lots of bodily harm on her and get away with it because she’s a robot (standards and practices cares if you reduce a living woman to a torso, but if "she" is a robot, it’s A-OK).
That debate, of Aya as a “her” and an “it,” was central to the tensions between Aya and Razer here. Razer dismissed the Manhunter as soulless because it was a robot—something with which Aya took considerable offense, and which led her to storm out of the ship. It brought into focus the romantic aspect of Razer and Aya’s relationship, something the show directly addressed, not only by Saint Walker needling Razer about his feelings for Aya, but by Aya registering emotions on the Manhunter’s scanners.
Running parallel to this was Aya’s attempt to coax a damaged Manhunter beyond its programming, to move beyond its programming to become an “artificial intelligence” instead of a “machine.” While this was Aya attempting to differentiate herself from the other machines, to reassure herself that she is not the same as how Razer described the Manhunter, it was also an attempt to prove that other robots, other machines, can achieve her level of... post-programming existence.
It didn’t appear to be very successful, but the episode raises questions about what the series sees as an ethic toward robots. Hal had no problem swapping out Aya for L.A.N.O.S. in “Reboot,” leaving him to be experimented on by the Guardians’ scientists, but clearly Aya is something different—to both the team and, to an extent, the show’s writers as well. I’m not sure where the episode or the show as a whole falls on this issue, but it’s something I’ll be keeping an eye out for, and I’d love to know what the rest of you think as well.
DC Nation Short: It was the first installment of “Batman of Shanghai,” a stylized interpretation that pits Bats, Catwoman, and Bane in 1930s Shanghai. The shorts aired during the summer at some point, and are easily found online if you want to see all three parts. I really liked Wolf Smoke’s style and the animation here, especially the ink effects near the end, which become very prominent in the final installment.