The latest in our Saturday-morning animation round-up is here! I’ve added Ben 10: Omniverse for the time being, what with the DC Nation shows being off until January. I’ll also add Adventure Time when its new season begins in November, which will expand this feature beyond just Saturday mornings. But we’ll still considering other ideas, so feel free to leave suggestions in the comments.
I’ve watched the Ben 10 franchise off and on for a little while, most notably catching episodes before Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. It’s always been a tad impenetrable only because I’m not well-versed in the shows' characters or mythology. But the Omniverse iteration provides some relief from that, making it an easier way to get into the series than it otherwise might be.
At the same time, Omniverse is advancing the story for long-time fans. Ben’s ready to be a solo superhero now, but he's still paired with a partner (the not terribly cleverly named Rook) in a fight against various aliens, mutants, and what have you. And “It Was Them” extended this notion even further with Ben’s decision that an old foe, the mad scientist archetype Dr. Animo, was behind the recent random attacks (like the giant slug assault that opened the episode). And so there was some lampshade-hanging on certain conventions (like the ease with which imprisoned villains escape supposedly secure super-prisons) while still completely embracing them as Ben and Rook tracked and stopped Dr. Animo’s giant ant plan.
The show has created a tension between Ben’s past as a sort of junior hero and his past successes, and his struggle to come to grips with being a mature young man and a new sort of hero. And his past is haunting him, as we saw with Animo’s plan in this episode or the Megawhatts in “A Jolt from the Past.” It’s an odd, but interesting, idea for a show to tackle the notion of 16-year-old facing off against his past in this way (most 16-year-olds would just be focused on the present).
And since he’s still lurking in the shadows, Khyber may be benefiting from this. Ben’s so sure that his old foes want a rematch that he’s not conceiving of a new threat. It’ll be a hard lesson to learn when Khyber makes his big move.
So it appears that I got ahead of myself last week when I discussed how the rebels of Onderon weren’t really taking the populace into account with their attacks. It turns out they were just waiting for this week. But I’m still not entirely convinced that this chain of episodes has made a convincing case in the PR battle for control of Onderon.
But I think a lot of this rests on the fact that “The Soft War” may've been the weakest episode of the season thus far (admittedly we’re only on Episode 4). It relied on a previously unseen character—hi, General Tandin!—for the pivoting of the action, and that’s never the most interesting or exciting development. There wasn't much suspense about the role Tandin had to play in the episode, so most of the episode was simply spent waiting for it to reach its inevitable conclusion.
The strange bit that stood out for me was how Dendup didn’t seem thrilled with the insurgency Steela and company were perpetuating. I appreciated the rationale that he wasn’t going to remain neutral in this civil war since he believed both factions, the Republic and the Confederacy, to be corrupt institutions, but it just seems odd for him to remain... almost divided about the issue (though the presence of Jedi in the ranks seemed to brighten his mood) of rebelling against Rash and the Separatist forces.
We have one more episode left in this particular arc, and I’m ready for it reach its conclusion.
Baxter Stockman is an iconic Turtles character. I know him best from the 1987 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, where he was a goofy and belittled (and white) scientist who was turned into a mutant fly after Shredder got fed up with the failures of Stockman’s Mouser robots. In the comics and the 2003 animated series, Stockman was a black man, still used the Mouser robots, but also became a cyborg (he turned into other things, too, in the 2003 series; it was a very grim go-round for the character).
This series sticks closer to the comics and the 2003 incarnation but blends in the dweeby loser aspect of the character from the 1987 version. Here, Stockman’s a loser who was fired for pouring toner on top of the copier—so he constructed a robotic battle suit to try to get revenge. His first suit was a wash, and the turtles easily defeated him, even going so far as to pop the guy in a dumpster.
After Stockman took advantage of the Tpod, the AI-based music player that Donnie rigged up, Stockman got himself a deadly robotic suit and properly began his rampage (his return to his office, and the sudden lack of fear among his old co-workers, was the episode’s brief highlight). The episode faltered from that point on as the (groan) Stockmanpod grew to resemble just a big toaster with a... mouth (?) that looked like the mouth of a Mouser (the Mouser head still made an appreciated appearance).
This episode was just dull. The Stockmanpod’s design didn’t stir up much excitement, and the climactic battle was kind of silly (the first battle was decent). I mean, Stockman was defeated by shoving a beehive (bringing back the unfunny bit of physical comedy from the start of the episode) in his viewport. That was lazy—this battlesuit AI can do all sorts of crazy things, but it can’t put a translucent plate over Stockman’s face?
I imagine Stockman will be back, somehow, so I’ll be curious to see where the show goes with him from here. He’s clearly not very smart (he doesn’t understand toner, after all) and he doesn’t have his suit any longer. So what’s next for him?