- Commentaries on every episode
- Deleted scenes
- Fuck ups
Johnny Quest meets the wonderful brains of Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer.
Created by Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer.
Voiced by James Urbaniak, Patrick Warburton, Chris McCulloch, Michael Sinterniklaas, Doc Hammer, Steven Rattazzi and Dana Snyder.
The Venture Bros. chronicles the exploits of Doctor Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture, his two children Hank and Dean and their “Swedish Murder Machine” bodyguard Brock Samson. Their arch-nemesis is the super villain The Monarch who chases after them in his giant cocoon ship with his wife Dr. Girlfriend (although since they were married she goes by Dr. Mrs. The Monarch). Season 4 Vol. 1 shook up the status quo quite a bit by having Samson quit guarding the Venture family and join S.P.H.I.N.X., a shadowy organization run by his former mentor, Colonel Hunter Gathers. He was replaced as the Venture’s bodyguard by Sgt. Hatred, a reformed child molester and former arch enemy to Rusty while The Monarch was taking a time out. Each episode builds on the incredibly impressive mythology, while also deepening the audiences understanding of characters that once seemed so one dimensional and now seem like members of my own family. If my family was less real and more awesome.
Spoilers abound for all previous seasons of The Venture Bros.
I already know you love this show, but I’ll share my feelings anyway. Be patient with me and, if at all possible, gentle.
There was almost a year in between The Venture Bros. Season 4, Vol. 1 (the first 8 episodes) and Vol. 2 (the last eight episodes) airing on Cartoon Network and Vol. 1 had done so much to shake up the status quo on the show, that it felt like anything could happen during the back half of season 4. And it did’s. Don’t even get me started.
The biggest problem for me in Vol. 1 was the lack of Brock Samson. After quitting his job with the Ventures and with the O.S.I. (the Office of Secret Intelligence), Brock ends up joining S.P.H.I.N.X., which used to be a society of super villains, but now fights evil since being infiltrated by Shore Leave (who now goes by Holy Diver) and Col. Hunter Gathers (who has had his breasts removed. Just watch the show.) Because of where the story takes him, Brock is only in the first and eighth episodes of the first volume and he was sorely missed since A) Patrick Warburton is the fucking man and B) he was the only character that reflected the slightest bit of competency in what he did, so he was the perfect foil for all the other characters to bounce off of. Samson was replaced by Sgt. Hatred who eventually grew on me by midway through Volume 1, but at first he was just one pedophile joke after another and I grew to miss Brock more and more.
Sgt. Hatred really got a chance to shine when he was trying to bond with Hank who, after the loss of his best friend Brock, had become rebellious (although lamely rebellious since everything is still filtered through his spazzy brain) and mildly out of control. Dean tried growing a mustache but also started becoming more afraid of life on the Venture Compound, and Volume 1 found him having more panic attacks and spitting up on his speed suit. Rusty even had to start learning how to be a father to the boys he could always just clone if they got themselves killed due to his negligence. Without Brock, the family was having to take care of themselves more and after the loss of the cloning lab the boys didn’t have unlimited lives to fall back on anymore. These Venture Bros. are the last Venture Bros. and for the first time in the show’s history, the danger for them was real.
Some of the supporting cast went through pretty big changes as well. After the tragic death of his best friend 24 in the Season 3 finale, 21 becomes a total badass complete with retractable arm blades and new found leadership skills. In the best episode of Volume 1 (Return to Malice) we found out that 21 still had 24’s partially shattered skull in his room and was having conversations with it just like he used to, Hamlet style. But we’ve all been there. It was another truly tragic moment in a series that prides itself on never letting sentimentality take over, but also allowing drama to take over when we least expect it.
Because of the lack of Brock Samson and missing the constantly quotable and horrifically killed 24 (and his flawless voicing by Chris McCullogh), I wasn’t as in love with Season 4, Vol. 1 as I was with the rest of the series. Also, Dr. Orpheus and The Triad only made one appearance and their mystical fuck ups make for some of the best laughs on the series. Instead, we were left with all of the helpless characters fending for themselves and a lot of it struck me as more sad than funny. I guess the tone just seemed to darken up quite a bit. There were still plenty of laughs, but the safety wheels were off and everyone was playing for keeps. I’m a person who loves it when shows get progressively darker (see Angel, Supernatural and Community) but I wasn’t sure if the tone fit The Venture Bros. or not. I was stupid and wrong, Chewers. Stupidly wrong.
So, how does Volume 2 stack up to the rest? It stacks up high, man. Super fucking high. Higher than James Franco high on James Franco. If The Venture Bros. isn’t the best written cartoon on television (and one of the best programs on television, overall) then float me a list of something better, because this show makes my brain parts happy. In the space of one episode I would find myself laughing hysterically at some random reference and then moments later be moved by a speech that Rusty or The Monarch gave and by the end there’d be a dick joke or a Total Recall reference that would slay me all over again. I’ve never seen a show that balances referential humor with character based humor so well. The meta stuff never threatens to overwhelm the center of the show, which is the relationships these characters have with one another and the great heights they achieve together only to fail miserably… as a family. Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer love each and every one of their characters so much that it’s hard for us not to, as well.
This (half) season also might have my favorite episode in the show’s entire run with Everybody Comes To Hank’s. It’s a near perfect blend of Venture sensibilities with noir style but don’t listen to me, Chewers, I’m biased since Hank has been my favorite character since early in Season 2. Hank sets up his own grocery store\restaurant\notary\private detective agency on the Venture Compound and Dermott (Hank’s super pathetic friend\possible bastard son of Brock Samson) can’t get a hold of his mother to come pick him up, so Hank takes the case. The adventure Hank goes on (along with his new partner The Alchemist) is touching and hilarious and sends him into manhood in ways I never saw coming. Whenever he puts on his new detective fedora, the show turns black and white and all of a sudden Hank is an incredibly capable and entirely smooth private dick. It’s nice to see Hank becoming such a badass since the boys were one note, brain damaged children for the first couple seasons of the show. They were hilarious, just not very deep.
I just had my mind blown the other day when I was doing some research on The Venture Bros. and figured out that Chris McCulloch (who does the voices of The Monarch, Hank Venture, Number 24, Pete White, Col. Gentleman and many others) is also Jackson Publick, the co-creator of the show. His voice work is some of the most textured work I’ve ever heard on an animated series and it blows my mind that he was a writer before he was voice talent. I would have no idea that the same person voices Hank and The Monarch if I hadn’t checked me some Wikipedia. Chris McCulloch and Billy West to rule them all.
I wouldn’t recommend jumping in to Venture Bros. this late in the run, however. The show has a massive mythology that it’s constantly referencing that might make the show a little impenetrable for the uninitiated. It also has an extremely deep bench of supporting characters that it draws on and if you’re not familiar with them and what they can do, then it might all just seem random and without meaning. But these characters grow and change and always stay true to their deeper motivations when their outward motives seem suspect. Start at the beginning of this show and you will be rewarded in ways that would be cruel of me to give away.
In closing, I’d like to share this scene with you Chewers that takes place the morning after a bad night at a worse strip club (and when you read it, do a Hunter S. Thompson voice for the Colonel):
Col. Hunter Gathers: It’s downright unreasonable. I could pole dance better than half those women. Good lord, son, there should be a mandatory retirement age for strippers.
Brock Samson: Did you see I got cornered by Robyn last night? I almost had to chew off my own arm to get away.
Col. Hunter Gathers: Oh, that poor woman has the saddest tits. Damn depressing.
Brock Samson: Right, yeah! They’re like The Notebook sad.
Col. Hunter Gathers: Those tits are like coming home from school and finding out your old man ran over your cat sad.
Brock Samson: Mournful. She has mournful tits. They’re like two suicide notes stuffed in a glitter bra.
Col. Hunter Gathers: Those things are like a little kid with purgeria cracking all his ribs trying to catch a Nerf ball. Just sad. Damn it, she has gloomy tits.
Brock Samson: It’s like she put a dollars worth of change into some old socks and taped them to her chest.
Col. Hunter Gathers: I wanna build two little caskets and give her tits a tasteful dignified funeral. Suicidal tits.
Thank you, Venture Bros. And thank you for listening Chewers, even though you already knew all this stuff.
As usual there are commentaries on every episode. some are enlightening and some are stupid. Play at your own risk. Okay, there’s not much risk. It’s not like the commentaries will hurt you, I just mean that it might be a waste of time you could be spending balancing your checkbook or furiously punching childhood photos.
There’s also some 15 second ads for the finale starring Publick and Hammer that are pretty funny and a two minute bit of one of the voice actors fucking up his line readings of an incredibly simple line. Not that I’m judging. The sound is very stereo-ish and the picture is in color, so that’s nice.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars