Ben 10: How to Fix and Improve Kevin Levin
Tactical Ochoa last edited by
With the third season of the Ben 10 reboot having introduced Kevin and there being an upcoming spin-off show based on that version of him…probably…maybe…questionably…who know…I’m going to use this as an opportunity to provide a more updated take of my thoughts and analysis on this character throughout the Ben 10 franchise. To provide what I think would be the best way to fix and improve Kevin to make him an overall better character. For those that have followed me for a while, you should already have a pretty good idea of what to expect out of this article. Nevertheless, I find that Kevin is also in quite a need of some help and better treatment. A major missed opportunity here that I find would’ve really helped to drive Kevin, and the franchise overall, further towards something that would’ve been much better and more distinct that what we officially got instead. Let’s begin.
First, some context. Kevin’s introduction into Ben 10 through the Original Series is I say one of the most complex and darkest moments of that very show. Kevin was an 11-year-old kid with the ability to absorb and redirect energy as well as absorb other species to inherit their characteristics. Sounds cool and all but his abilities were more of a curse to Kevin than a blessing. Kevin was viewed as a freak because of his powers. Kevin faced abuse because of his powers. He was kicked out of his home because of his powers (at least that WAS the case until UAF retconned that…because of course that would happen). Kevin’s misuse and mishandling of his powers led to him to take on his mutated form. Kevin’s frequent use and lack of control of his powers also led to him having a damaged mental state. Pretty much everything that happened to Kevin revolved around his energy absorption abilities and the poor decisions and actions that he took when using them. Ben was Kevin’s second chance at a better life. Ben offered to help Kevin but due to the nature of Kevin’s character, Kevin turned it down. He blamed Ben for the mutation that Kevin went through, even though it was Kevin’s fault. Kevin became obsessed with wanting to make Ben suffer and had made plenty attempts to do so in various ways. Kevin was the true mirror image of Ben; the true evil opposite of Ben. I say more so than Albedo. Kevin and his actions reflected a darker path that Ben almost found himself brought down to, and became aware of just in time to turn away from, due to Ben’s own poor decisions when he first met Kevin. It’s no secret that I very much like and favor this version of Kevin. I very much find this to be the best take on Kevin Levin in the franchise. I very much find that the way that Kevin was set up in the Original Series opened up a lot of potential for him to really shine as a villain (and I’ll get more to that later). So much potential due to all this depth and complexity in Kevin as well as his conflict with Ben…and it was all swept away when Alien Force came around.
So, what do I think went wrong with Kevin in the franchise (and I bet that I’m going to ruffle some feathers here)? To sum it all up, they made him a hero. Now granted, if that’s the direction that the UAF team wanted to go for, they have every right to go down that direction. I just don’t find that it was the right and proper direction to go with Kevin. Sure, there was plenty of depth that was indeed added into Kevin as a character in the sequel shows and the moments themselves weren’t really bad. The issue was that it happened to Kevin. Kevin Levin, the delusional psychopath that only cared about himself with no regard for other and had such an obsession towards wanting to make Ben suffer and had made plenty of attempts to do so. At least most of what was done with Kevin in the sequel shows just doesn’t fit him as a character. It doesn’t make sense that someone like Kevin goes through all of this given who he was before and everything that he’s done. If anything, I find that a more fitting character to be in the very position that Kevin is in the sequel shows is Charmcaster. Why? Well, I pretty much explained why in my article about Charmcaster. Here’s the link if anyone wants to check it out. It’s either have Charmcaster make the transition from villain to hero or just don’t have any villains make such a transition at all.
The issues don’t end there though. Kevin’s transition into being a hero felt rushed and forced. It took too little time and too little effort for his transition to make sense and Ben and Gwen’s willingness to trust him was also displayed way too soon. Again, given who Kevin was before and everything that he’s done, his transition and Ben and Gwen’s willingness to trust him so quickly didn’t make sense. This was something that required a lot more time and effort to play out; probably at least one to two seasons worth. Ben and Gwen should’ve had Kevin on a tight leash and be keeping an eye on him in case he double crossed them while Kevin should’ve worked more to try and earn their trust. Speaking of Gwen, don’t get me started on her relationship with Kevin because that makes no sense either. Again, Kevin, on multiple occasions, went after Ben. On multiple occasions, Kevin tried to kill Ben. Plenty of times Kevin also tried to harm/kill Gwen. Let’s not forget to mention just how much of a liability Kevin is. Gwen is half living, breathing energy (which I am also not fond of) and Kevin has the ability to absorb energy, which can cause him to go insane and power hungry if he absorbs too much. That is a recipe for a disaster waiting to happen. In fact, it indeed almost, if not exactly, happened in the final quarter of season 1 of Ultimate Alien. This relationship is fine? Gwen and Kevin being in a relationship with each other is ok despite these issues? Christ. One more thing. I know plenty of people that like this version of Kevin like to use the whole “time heals” excuse; that oh, it’s been years since Ben and Gwen’s last encounter with Kevin before the events of the Original Series. People change. Time heals. These characters have learned to forgive each other and whatnot. Oh yeah, sure, time definitely heals. That fight between Ben and Kevin in the very first episode of Alien Force really showed that they’ve looked passed their differences and…oh, wait a minute. That’s right. After years of not seeing each other, the moment Kevin spotted Ben, he immediately attacked Ben without hesitation because Kevin wanted payback for their past encounters with each other and Ben defeating Kevin in each of those encounters and imprisoning Kevin in the Null Void. Kevin made another hostile attempt towards Ben because of their past encounters. Also, before their fight, Ben and Gwen recognized Kevin for the same said past encounters and from what I can tell from that scene, their familiarity with Kevin only further encouraged them to exercise more caution…because after all, this is the same Kevin that was so obsessed with going after Ben during the Original Series. I very much doubt that the “time heals” excuse is a justifiable excuse to use anymore given the circumstances of that very battle in episode 1 of season 1 of Alien Force. Most especially with Kevin, if he still had a desire to go after Ben because of their past encounters with each other despite their years of separation, then no, time did not heal, which just makes Kevin’s transition into being a hero make even less sense. I believe that’s everything that I wanted to discuss about Kevin Levin from the sequel shows so let’s move on to Kevin Levin in the Ben 10 reboot.
Unfortunately, Kevin doesn’t fare much better in the Ben 10 reboot because much like with at least most of the other returning characters in the reboot show, Kevin is a mere mediocre shell of his former self. First off, let’s get into what was taken away from him and what replaced what was taken away. Remember when I stated about how pretty much everything that happened to Kevin in the Original Series were due to his energy absorbing abilities? Well, they’re gone. One of the very key aspects about Kevin Levin that made him, well, Kevin Levin were taken away. Now surely, I bet some people would like to point out that his energy absorption abilities didn’t really get a lot of attention in the Original Series and instead, it was his amalgamated mutation. Regardless, those very abilities were still a very important aspect about Kevin that made him who he is. They contributed greatly to defining Kevin as a character and villain so yes, it’s a very big deal that those very abilities were taken away from him. So, what replaced that? Pretty much what I find to be one of the most absurd and illogical moments I’ve ever witnessed in the Ben 10 franchise: the AntiTrix. More specifically how Kevin acquired the AntiTrix. Kevin wasn’t given the AntiTrix nor he didn’t just so happen to find it. No, Kevin received the blueprints to making his own replica of the Omnitrix in a random dream that he had and then built the AntiTrix in his own garage, including making some minor modifications to the design to make the AntiTrix an improvement over the Omnitrix. Let that sink in. Kevin Levin managed to single-handedly make his own replica of one of the most advanced pieces of technology in the entire universe (with some improvements over it) in his garage and in a short amount of time with no explanation behind how he got all of the proper parts and all of the DNA samples for it. Assuming that Azmuth is in this rebooted continuity, an 11-year-old boy managed to pull off a task that one of the most intelligent individuals in the entire universe was able to achieve. What in god’s name was Man of Action and Cartoon Network thinking when they did that in the reboot show? What made them think that this was a good idea and direction to tackle? In one fellow swoop, they’ve managed to undermine one of the most intelligent and highly credible characters in the entire franchise, the very device that he created, and his achievement in creating said device. Clearly, I’m still ticked off about this very moment to this day but I’ve said plenty enough about this for now so let’s continue on with Kevin in the reboot show.
Along with the removal of Kevin’s absorption abilities, other aspects of Kevin as a character were also very much removed in the reboot show. Kevin is no longer the mentally unstable, sadistic, delusional psychopath who went through a lot of abuse and torment and was viewed by others as a freak. Those very aspects that I found made him at his best and gave him a lot of potential are also gone. Is there anything that Kevin does offer in the reboot? Well, he’s an obnoxious, childish, pretty much generic bully to Ben (even though Cash and JT are in the reboot) and…that’s pretty much it. There’s not much else to Kevin as a character. Well, ok, sure, there is Kevin’s crush on Gwen (ugh), thus making him quite protective of her and apparently, I’m guessing Kevin was abandoned or something (and I guess Ben has known this for a while) considering that it’s been emphasized how he doesn’t have anyone to go back to, which is odd because the flashback showing Kevin building the AntiTrix clearly shows him living at a house. I guess there’s more that will be built upon that but I don’t find that to be as impactful as what he went through in the Original Series and you all should already know of my views on Kevin and Gwen’s relationship. Even though this is a rebooted continuity, I still don’t find Kevin and Gwen to be a fitting set of characters to be in a relationship with each other. It just doesn’t seem right. Other than that, what sums up Kevin the most, if not overall, in the reboot show is that, again, he’s an obnoxious, childish, generic bully who picks on Ben because from what I recall, it’s funny to him or something of the likes. That’s quite lacking for Kevin as a character. So little depth and complexity to him. So little weight to him. It’s also so, well, not Kevin. There’s so little about Kevin Levin in the reboot that’s Kevin Levin. His abilities are gone and replaced with the AntiTrix. His personality, behavior, and characteristics from the Original Series are gone. The only thing that I can tell so far about Kevin that’s even remotely Kevin is his name and his appearance. Once again, a mere mediocre shell of his former self. This just isn’t Kevin Levin.
So, with all of that finally out of the way, now we can get to the part of the article where I discuss what I find to be the best direction to fix and improve Kevin Levin. For starters, bring back the Original Series version of him (figures that I would say that). Bring back his psychopathic behavior and personality. Bring back his energy absorption abilities. Bring back his obsession towards going after Ben. Bring back all of that stuff. Make him the villain that he was in the Original Series and keep him like that. No transition towards being a hero. No relationship with Gwen. No AntiTrix. Etc. As I stated before, I find that stuff like this made Kevin at his best and really helped to set up a lot of potential for Kevin as a character and villain. Speaking of potential, what is that very potential that I mentioned that Kevin has as a villain? Kevin 11,000. The Original Series version. Not the Omniverse version. Bring back the Original Series version of Kevin, build him up to Kevin 11,000, and then go even further with it. How? Once again, OS Kevin is a mentally unstable, delusional psychopath with energy absorption abilities that makes him not only more and more powerful but also makes his mental state worse and worse the more energy and DNA and whatnot he absorbs, thus making him more and more uncontrollable and dangerous. That is a recipe for an end-of-the-world scenario. That makes Kevin a walking, living, breathing potential doomsday event…and, once again, he is obsessed with making Ben suffer due to their past encounters with each other. Kevin is potentially Ben’s most dangerous, terrifying, and personally significantly impactful enemy, more so than the likes of Vilgax, Hex, Zs’Skayr, the Highbreed, etc. The OS version of Kevin Levin, and his future self, Kevin 11,000, isn’t a character that wants to rule the world or the galaxy or the universe or whatever. He isn’t a character that wants ultimate power. Although, it’s does make sense that he would desire more power but not for the generic reason of wanting ultimate power. Kevin just wants to make Ben suffer and is willing to do anything to achieve that. A personal conflict that could put Ben, Gwen, Max, Ben’s son, Ken, and anyone else close to Ben in the most amount of danger that they would ever experience whenever Kevin is around. Every time Ben and his allies defeat him, Kevin strives to absorb more energy and DNA to make himself more powerful, which could subsequently make his mutation even more monstrous and unstable. Unlike what was shown in the sequel shows, there isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) a way to reverse Kevin’s mental state. All of that energy that he absorbed and retained inside him would’ve cooked his brain, damaging it permanently. Yes, this can happen if the human brain absorbs too much energy; especially ionizing radiation energy. Anyways, this is where I find Kevin would be suited at; what his untapped potential is. Kevin Levin’s set up in the Original Series opened up the opportunity to be the best villain in the entire franchise. A villain who would provide such a significant impact and personal conflict to Ben, Gwen, Ken, and Kevin’s son, Devlin. A villain who can truly test and challenge these characters at their most struggling. Really push them to their limits. This is the type of character that I find that Kevin should be and I say that this is a direction that can really help to vastly fix and improve Kevin, and the franchise overall, in a way that can prove to be very much unique, interesting, intense, and captivating. To provide a sense of tension and concern for the main characters in a way that no other villain and conflict can provide.
That should be everything that I want to discuss about Kevin Levin as a character. Hopefully I explained everything well enough to get my point across. Kevin is a character with so much potential to really stand out as a villain in such a good way and to see that this isn’t the direction that was taken for him is one of my biggest disappointments of the entire franchise. Hopefully there’s still a chance for that very potential to end up being fulfilled. Other than that, that’s my take on Kevin Levin in the Ben 10 franchise and what I think would be the best direction for him to go. If anyone has any thoughts and opinions of their own on this topic and this article, feel free to leave a comment down below.
Oh, one more thing, I say to bring back Michael Reisz and Charlie Schlatter as the voice actors behind Kevin. Most especially Charlie Schlatter. Greg Cipes did fine as Kevin. It’s just that I like Schlatter’s performance as Kevin (both kid and future self) and Devlin more. I find Schlatter to be a more fitting choice as the voice of Kevin.
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