I came late to the The Venture Bros. Even after hearing my friends rave about it, geeking out over the allusions to Johnny Quest and Scooby-Doo and superheroes, I gave the first episode a try and thought it was, well, uninspired.
Still, the geekgasm persisted, accompanied by people telling me that I needed to see a few of the episodes to really get it. So, I eventually caved and watched the first disc of Season One. And realized what everyone was excited about.
The Venture Bros. is about Hank and Dean Venture, a bunch of bumbling but well-intentioned teenagers; their father, scientist Doctor Venture, a former child adventurer who coasts on his father’s reputation; Brock Samson, the family bodyguard; and most of the time, the arch-enemy of Dr. Venture, The Monarch, a supervillain whose whole schtick is about butterflies. And yet it’s about so much more.
Season One of The Venture Bros. was uneven, but largely inventive, clever and, above all, funny. Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer, the brains behind the show, apparently grew up with the same influences that I did and mix them all up and refashion them into a wacky, weird show (a compliment) that acts as both commentary and homage.
Season Two improved upon the promise of Season One and despite a couple of slower episodes, developed the world of the show and delved more deeply into the situations and characters. And, David Bowie!
Season Three, just released on DVD, knocks the ball out of the park.
I watched the whole season, back to back, and there wasn’t a bad episode in the bunch. On the contrary, Publick and Hammer are putting out the best episodes they’ve ever done. Now that the characters are established, the creators have more room to move them around, bring them into new situations, and explore some of the continuity of the show (which for me is my favorite part).
I thought about doing this without spoilers, but that’s impossible, I think, so venture forth only if you are caught up in Season 2 and want some more info.
For those who watched the Season Two episodes, you know that it ended with the wedding of the Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend and the destruction of the Coccoon. Season Three picks up right where that left off. Much of the overall arc involves the Monarch, who was never sanctioned to “arch” Dr. Venture (as an archenemy) and must now give him up. Subsequent episodes deal with Dr. Venture getting a new archenemy and the Monarch coming to terms with this. Further friction arises when Dr. Girlfriend (now Dr. Mrs. The Monarch)’s henchman, The Murderous Moppets, are forced to work with the Monarch’s minions, primarily 21 and 24.
Additionally, Dr. Venture is still in need of some cash as his compound crumbles around him and his inventions fail to gain traction. Meanwhile, his brother, Jonas Venture Jr., continues to do well and is vying to be the true heir to their father’s scientific legacy.
Standout episodes involve the return of Dr. Killinger and his magic murder bag, this time coming into the lives of Venture and his family. We also see a lot more of various characters’ backstories through flashbacks and memories. And like a warped version of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Alan Moore’s brilliant Victorian team of superheroes), Publick and co. introduce a Victorian era/steampunk group featuring another Dr. Venture (and on a dirigible to boot). That’s not to mention the references to G.I. Joe, Voltron, Sean Connery, and more.
What I enjoy most about The Venture Bros., though, is that as funny and farcical as the show is, it can still be tender and you can still feel for these characters, as flawed and inept as they are, and that’s something that shouldn’t be underestimated when counting the series’ strengths.
A warning for the fainthearted—one of the joys of watching the series on DVD is that it’s uncensored. There’s plenty of profanity here. But also lots of, er, male genitalia. Cartoon male genitalia. Lots and lots.
If you haven’t seen it, Season Three of The Venture Bros. is the creators’ finest work. If you have seen it, I’m sure you’ll agree. It definitely deserves a second viewing. If you haven’t seen any Venture Bros. (and are still reading this), give Season One a try, knowing that it will be slow at times and knowing that you have greatness awaiting you. It will be worth it.