The first volume of this Cartoon Network series brings us a new cartoon from the creators of Ben 10. Generator Rex is based on an Image Comics title from 1999 called M. Rex by Joe Kelly and Duncan Roleau.
In the setting of Generator Rex, every living thing on earth has been infected by a plague of nanites. These nanites usually stay dormant, but randomly become active, turning most victims into ‘Evos’, terrible and mindless monsters that will rampage about unless stopped. The people to stop them are Providence, a group created to fight evos.
Their secret weapon is a boy named Rex, our show’s hero. Rex appears to be a normal boy of 15, but is actually an Evo himself. Unlike most people, he is in control of his nanites, which he can use to turn parts of his body into machines, or build nanite-based machines onto himself, such as turning his legs into a jet bike, growing VTOL engines on his back, and so on. Most importantly, Rex can interface with active nanites in other Evos and shut them down, returning them to their un-mutated forms. However, Rex has amnesia, cutting him off from any knowledge of his past or family. He lives in a Providence facility, leading to a constant stream of discipline problems.
Rex’s handler is are a Providence agent known only as #6, who is very Men In Black and Agent Smith from The Matrix in his styling, complete with incredible martial arts powers. Rex is monitored by Dr. Holiday and his companion in combat is an Evo monkey called Bobo Haha, who is a snarky loud-mouthed gun-toting insubbordinate.
The series is strongly episodic, but builds some characters and storylines over the first volume. Rex’s main recurring antagonist is an Evo known as Van Cleiss, who can also control his nanites. Van Cleiss leads a group of rogue Evos called The Pack, who serve as a Brotherhood of Evil Mutants-style rogues gallery and foil to Rex. Van Cleiss promises answers about Rex’s past, but only if Rex will join him in world-domination.
Many of the episodes of this first volume center around Rex’s rebellion and frequent escape from the Providence facility that is his home, as he engages in ‘typical’ teenage rebellion and quests for self-definition. Each episode, some concession is made to Rex having a more normal life, but then there will be another breakout or un-authorized road trip. The repetition got fairly predictable, though Rex never went-off mission and his escapes frequently served to put him in the right place to stumble upon a new Evo or plot.
The art is clean and crisp, distinctly American while showing some influences from anime following the explosion of anime fandom in the USA. The designs on Rex’s nanite-creations are sharp and dynamic, and the show stays fresh with a constant stream of new Evo antagonists to provide Rex with challenges, though Rex (thusfar) has kept to a half-dozen or so nanite creations, seldom having to innovate a new creation as you might expect from a hero with a multi-purpose power.
The show addresses themes of lost childhood, individuality, friendship under compromised circumstances, destiny vs. free choice and the nature of humanity. It’s all designed for a younger audience, so the lessons and ideas conveyed aren’t terribly sophisticated, but the pacing is brisk and the characters engaging, if not terribly nuanced (so far).
This DVD set includes the first nine episodes of the series, as well as a music video for the show’s theme “Revolution” by the band Orange. It also includes a slide show of concept sketches that were used in developing the show, mostly of Rex but also displaying the other central characters and their Evo opponents.