(NOTE: The following screen captures are from the standard definition edition.)

STUDIO:  Turner Home Entertainment
MSRP: $44.98
-    Bonus CD: Music of JG Thirwell
-    Deleted Scenes
-    Commentary on every episode

The Pitch

The crown jewel of Adult Swim’s line-up goes Blu.

The Humans

Jackson Publick, Doc Hammer, Patrick Warburton, Michael Sinterniklaas, James Urbaniak, Soul-Bot

The Nutshell

The last season of Venture Brothers ended on something of a cliffhanger with Dr. Girlfriend having something important to tell Team Venture’s archnemesis, The Monarch.  This season picks up soon after the previous one left off and instead of having a specific character arc in mind like previous seasons, attempts to explore the background of many of the ancillary characters of the series to show the audience how exactly we got to this point.  Meanwhile, Monarch has to find a new hero to arch against and Brock discovers a pants shattering secret about his time spent as the Venture bodyguard.  As usual, it all comes together for one final showdown to end the season.

The Lowdown

The notion of Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer as the aloof co-creators of The Venture Brothers, threading together numerous plotlines by the end of each season by mere happenstance has become completely untenable by season three.  The most exciting thing about watching Venture Brothers develop since it’s inception in 2003 is just how far the Astro Base Go! team has come in terms of just about every facet of production.  There has been comments to the tune of ‘less funny’ with regards to this season of Venture Brothers, but I feel like this is the direction the show has always been heading in and with season three they’re finally hitting a perfect stride that manages to deftly balance character development with the humor and action which would be expected of a show that is constantly paying homage to the animated action adventure shows of yesteryear while simultaneously operating as one.  

In fact, the action in this season is heads and shoulders above those of the previous two, with the highlights coming in the two part finale with some genuinely thrilling sequences involving Brock warding off highly trained assassins.  This is bolstered by the fact that the animation has always been magnificent, but is particularly eye-popping this season, especially in the Blu-Ray format.  But even simple things such as character development and plotting are feeling more and more developed in this season, with episodes like “Dr. Quymn, Medicine Woman” proving to be an exercise in propulsive plot development with the entire episode sailing past at such a speed to give you comedy whiplash while more origin-building episodes such as “The Invisible Hand of Fate” show just how far the series has come by eschewing the typical comedic fireworks for an episode-ending montage that is honest-to-god moving.  I never cease to be impressed by their ability to tie all of the dissonant threads of the season together for the season finales without making everything feel shoehorned, the culmination always feels organic and always upsets the status quo in a way that makes you downright excited for the next set of episodes to begin.

All of this talk though might obscure the fact that this remains a truly funny show.  It uses Altman-esque overlapping dialogue like no other animated feature before it, bringing a feeling of spontaneity to a format that doesn’t necessarily cultivate such things.  The show somehow manages to fit a truckload of visual and verbal references to the pop cultural refuse of recent decades without having it overpower the characters and the story being told.  This is an amazing accomplishment, pop that doesn’t eat itself, and has proven itself nearly impossible to pull off for most other shows.  While the humor is piled on fast and furious as it was in recent seasons, and there aren’t as many slapsticky set pieces to hang your hat on, although that being said there’s a running joke about a pirate addicted to tranquilizer darts and the usage of Herve Villechaize, so in many respects it’s business as usual here.

But the humor is starting to be almost singularly drawn from the characters and their situation (even that pirate gag above makes sense in the context of that character and his lot as Rusty Jr’s disrespected lackey).  Speaking as a fan of character-driven comedy I couldn’t be more excited by this development.  And while the creators think this season is something of an anomaly with its focus on mythology-building and lack of an in for new viewers, this season was dynamic from beginning to end and is yet another example of their continuing improvements in all aspects of the game.  I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us in season four.

The Package

Adult Swim always brings the good from cover art to extras with its DVD releases and Venture Bros. has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to this.  I thought they couldn’t improve on the gatefold art on the inside of season two’s box set, but then they go and up the fucking ante with the amazing Atari 2600 cover art with an equally awesome live action Venture Bros. tease on the inside of the case.  The only unfortunate thing about the Blu-Ray release is that the cool sub-menu screens featuring Doctor Venture and Brock in their pixilated Atari forms are lost, but it’s more than made up for with the exquisite video quality.  VB is one of (if not the only) legitimately gorgeous shows being broadcast in the AS lineup, so it’s great to see the fantastic animation get the lush setup it deserves (the colors on the Blu versus standard def are eye-popping, particularly). 

Also as a bonus to those purchasing the Blu is the bonus CD of JG Thirwell’s original score for the series (featuring both the opening and end credits themes as well as some of the best music cues from the series to date) which has found its way into frequent rotation on long car rides.  Also included in the set is the standard rambling commentaries from the co-creators for every episodes, that are as shambolic and fun as any they’ve recorded in the past (WARNING, however, as they spoil a key plot point pretty much immediately in episode one’s commentary so listen only after you’ve finished the season).  There are also a handful of deleted scenes for each episode that are in rough animatic form that are worth checking out.  The usual bounty that accompanies AS releases with the added benefit of crystal clear high definition and a bitching soundtrack.  Hard to argue with this release.  At all.

9.6 out of 10