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"OK K.O.!" reunites cartoons past and present

"OK K.O.!" reunites cartoons past and present

On Saturday, Oct. 8, the special “Crossover Nexus” aired on Cartoon Network (CN), uniting four shows – “OK K.O.!,” “Ben 10,” “Steven Universe” and “Teen Titans Go!” in 11 minutes of pure awesomeness.

The special, presented by “OK K.O.!,” begins in the ruins of CN City, the location of CN’s channel bumpers from 2004-2007, where cartoons of the day interacted freely in a CGI urban environment. In front of the destroyed Townsville Hall, the villain Red Strike (Michael Dorn) is firing at the silhouettes of Garnet (from “Steven Universe,” voiced by Estelle) and Ben 10 (Tara Strong), before summoning another hero to join them, specifically K.O. (Courtenay Taylor). K.O. is subsequently rescued by Garnet who introduces herself as the leader of the Crystal Gems, a group dedicated to protecting the Earth against threats from outer space.

Garnet and K.O. share the most chemistry in the special as a result of Ian Jones-Quartey, K.O.’s creator, having been a writer on “Steven Universe” in its formative years. And while some fans may have wished for the special to simply be between those two shows, props must be given to the showrunners for making it a crossover of shows from all over CN, instead of just the “Internet-approved” series.

Ben and K.O. also share a surprising amount of chemistry, both being adventurous boys with superpowers. While K.O. has energy-based attacks and Garnet has Future Vision, Ben’s power is that he has the “Omnitrix,” a device on his wrist that allows him to transform into up to 10 aliens. However, Strike strips Garnet and Ben of their powers, forcing them to flee further into the city.

The heroes then meet Raven of the Teen Titans (also voiced by Tara Strong), who explains that long ago, CN City was attacked by Strike and had its heroes turned to stone. This is our first hint that this special is more than just a crossover, but rather a love letter to CN as a whole. They include popular nostalgic characters like Chowder, Courage the Cowardly Dog and Samurai Jack, but also more obscure characters like Puffy Amiyumi, Robot Jones and even the Noods, the channel’s branding effort after CN City. Raven’s inclusion was a sore spot for some fans when the special was first announced, but she adds her own brand of sarcastic wit to the group (correcting the captions when they identify her as a “magician,” for example).

The heroes’ journey to Strike’s lair, where he promptly corners them and begins his “incredibly long, uninterruptible power-up sequence,” during which K.O. recognizes that Strike’s weapon looks a lot like a pen and deduces that it must have the ability to create as well as destroy. 

K.O. creates a replacement Omnitrix for Ben, but instead of his usual alien fare, he turns into Jake the Dog from “Adventure Time” (with John DiMaggio) and Prohyas from “Mighty Magiswords.” K.O. realizes that since Ben’s Omnitrix is formed from Strike’s powers, he has the ability to summon any cartoon character. The old theme music for CN’s old “Cartoon Cartoon Fridays” lineup then kicks in, as Ben, being launched by one of K.O.’s power-fists, transforms into dozens of new and old CN characters, including Finn, Gumball and Dexter.

After the city is restored to normal, the heroes depart to their home universes (with Raven’s portal leading to the original “Teen Titans,” catching it at the last second) and K.O. hugs Garnet goodbye.

“Crossover Nexus” is perhaps the ultimate tribute to Cartoon Network’s 20-plus years of animation, showing that the “OK K.O.!” writers truly love the medium as both creators and fans.

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