Kid's Stuff | Episode 5 (57)
Aired: August 14, 2004
Heroes: Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern and Etrigan
Villains: Mordred, Morgaine le Fey, Blockbuster, Cheetah, KGBeast and Copperhead
Objects: Amulet of First Magic, Lasso of Truth, Utility Belt (Batarang and Grappling Gun), and Power Ring
Places: Shadow Realm and Funseyland
Beasts: Robots and Stone Dragons
Written By: Henry Gilroy
Directed By: Joaquim Dos Santos
ReviewReview written by Alex Weitzman
Every so often, you need a break from the heavy stuff, and this was a generally satisfying break. Let's just say it now, and leave it be: there's not much gray matter to this episode. Mordred banishes adults; the League has to come back as kids and kick his butt; his butt is duly kicked. It's not an intellectually bankrupt episode, for while there's certainly a few logic questions that Mordred's system seems to raise, the general plotting is pretty tight and the dialogue is pretty durned sharp for kids' versions of characters we're used to seeing as adults. Of course, the dialogue is helped, and even enhanced, by what we know of these heroes ahead of time (which is why using pre-established leads was necessary), because much of the humor is in the comparison to the typical. John's eagerness of constructs is not as funny on its own as it is when you know how utilitarian he is.
Of course, there is a pretty obvious comparison to be made between this episode and a certain Glen Murakami show. Teen Titans is the newest action cartoon to have its own distinct style, and as the episode "Hereafter" commented on Samurai Jack, so does "Kid Stuff" comment on Titans. The group dynamic of these characters we already know so well on their own almost immediately becomes a mirror image of the Titans: Superman as Robin, John Stewart as Cyborg, Batman as Raven, Wonder Woman as Starfire, and Etrigan as Beast Boy. There's a few differences here and there, but some of the resemblences are startling. Additionally, the proof is in the visual pudding: every kid is drawn in a consistent Timm style (the realism of that world), but the five superheroes have more in common with anime-style super-deformity, especially Etrigan. This sort of thing is not meant to really be a major focal point of the episode; the whole thing plays just as well by accepting it as simply the Justice League as kids. But for those in the DCAU know, "Kid's Stuff" is a fairly blatant wink to JLU's sister CN series. Nothing to hit hard on in one's analysis, but a nice thing to keep in mind while watching the episode.
The action is pretty strong, and the fights and other moments of tension/thrill (like sneaking off Mordred's amulet) are basically the key element of this episode, since the aim is entertainment. But without the dramatic 'oomph' of episodes like "For The Man Who Has Everything", or even "Initiation", the fights have the tone of desiring a response of tension-releasing laughter. It's like The Fifth Element in that respect, with high glitz and big moves, but very little required back from the audience in way of immersion or stakes. And I'm not meaning this as a dig, because there is absolutely, unequivocally a place for that kind of action. More than that, it's honest, because the comic forebears of Justice League aren't always serious. It's a show about flying people wearing underwear, for chrissakes, and some loosening up is bound to occur. A good lark is a good lark, and when you can sit down and enjoy one, it's a bit o' harmless fun.
Which is why, in the end, while the whole thing is what I would call a general success, there's a few moments that seem oddly out-of-place, especially in the end. Not that drama totally ruins comedy (since comedy doesn't always ruin drama, either), since dramatic elements are necessary anyway to make the plot move in a forward motion. But sometimes, the tone shifts from something light-hearted and fun to something eerily depressing or sinister. Mordred's fate is acceptable as far as tone goes, since it's a darkly comic reveal for his ironic situation, but his earlier transformation of Funseyland into his kingdom is maybe a tad more disturbing than warranted. Mordred seems to have seen/read a little too much Tim Burton and Jhonen Vasquez. Morgana's something of a party-pooper, and while D'Abo's a wonderful voice for her, her scenes seem a little dull. And Batman's final line is quite jarring with the rest of the episode. True as it may be, the line is still a real downer and it seriously clashes with the rest of the episode, especially since we didn't see any of Batman's problems with youth arise during the episode. Batman's been flirty and sarcastic before, especially with Diana, so why not now? Basically, the episode would've had a fuller effect as a piece of pure fun if there weren't these odd potholes here and there in the tone. Still, the episode works as a good lark, and it's worth the time when you need a League with a sense of the goofy.