Superman on Television
Justice League Action: Episode Reviews
Season 1 - Episodes 13: "Trick or Threat"Reviewed by: Thomas Dreyfuss
Originally Aired: December 24, 2016 (U.K.), March 18, 2017 (U.S.)
Written by Paul Dini
Directed by Doug Murphy
Kevin Conroy as Batman (voice)
Tara Strong as Kid Batman/Bully #1 (voice)
Lacey Chabert as Zatanna (voice)
Dayci Brookshire as Kid Zatanna (voice)
Damian O'Hare as John Constantine (voice)
Paula Rhodes as Kid Constantine (voice)
Erica Luttrell as Kid Dr. Fate (voice)
Noel Fisher as Klarion the Witch Boy (voice)
Trevor Devall as Cain/Bully #2/Wolfman (voice)
Rating - 5 (out of 5): There will never be another show like Justice League nor its successor Justice League Unlimited. Like, JLU is pretty much the culmination of over a decades worth of continuity and characters set by legends like Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Glen Murakami, James Tucker, Alan Burnett, Butch Lukic, Stan Berkowitz, Dwayne McDuffie, and countless others. So while I think comparisons between JLA and JLU are fair, the cast and crew of Justice League Action aren't trying to capture the lightning in a bottle that is Justice League Unlimited so much as they are doing what every DC Animated series does best: Pulling concepts from every corner of DC arcana and using them to tell unique stories for generations of children.
I bring all this up because JLA's "Trick or Threat" is inevitably going to be compared to JLU's "Kid Stuff" as they both involve four Justice Leaguers being turned into children by a malevolent magic user that coincidently happens to also be an immortal petulant child trying to take over the world. But while "Kid Stuff" plays out in the typical JLU episode format, "Trick or Threat" is poised to be JLA's special Halloween episode. So this time, turning the heroes into kids is not only thematically important, but opens the door for homage to other Halloween specials. For instance, Kid Constantine's take on the famous "I got a rock" moment from It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is clever.
Cain, owner of the ever moving House of Mystery, serves as the host of this episode. Trevor Devall delivers a wonderfully eerie performance as the creepy caretaker but I hated when Cain, in the middle of a scary moment, informed the audience at home that said moment is indeed scary. I get that it would be irresponsible to scare the living bejeebers out of children so the producers used Cain to keep the episode family friendly. But it comes off like they're talking down to children and I felt that the scene should've played out without any commentary.
Everything else about the episode is on point. Shane Glines' designs of the Junior Justice League Halloween Costumes are really cute. All of the actresses lending their voices to the pint sized pack of heroes are excellent with Tara Strong adorably angsty Kid Batman being the clear standout. Zatanna being unable to cast spells because of her braces (which came from a backup story in Zatanna #9 by Adam Beechen and Jamal Igle) was a clever way to create tension and the solution tying back into the Halloween theme is equally clever. Overall, I enjoyed "Trick or Threat" but I wished that Cain didn't break the flow in the middle of the episode. With Constantine now in possession of the master key to the House of Mystery, there's no telling where Cain may show up.
And it would be remiss of me to finish this review without mentioning the recent passing of Bernie Wrightson. Wrightson was the legendary artist who drew several issues of the House of Mystery horror anthology and co-created Swamp Thing with Len Wein. Aside from my aforementioned gripes toward this episode's writing, the JLA crew have done right by Wrightson's legacy of horrifyingly beautiful imagery. I'm happy that a new generation will get to experience Swamp Thing and the House of Mystery in their own special way.
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