First published on 5 May 2011. Updated on 3 Mar 2014.
If you’ve been waiting until now to get into the Venture Brothers (now second only to Aqua Teen Hunger Force as Adult Swim’s longest-running series)… just give up. Yes, it’s magnificent and everything, but don’t bother. It’s too late.
I’m serious. If the series to this point was already pretty complicated (and it was) and the jokes ludicrously obscure (again, yes), then by now it’s almost completely opaque for the newcomer. With a cast that’s grown to 50+ characters, each with a complicated backstory and a much-referenced history, the Venture Brothers is now the cartoon comedy equivalent of that MC Escher etching with the stairs going in all directions.
Interestingly enough, the Venture brothers themselves are again at the centre of the action after several series in which they were tangential characters at best. Hank and Dean have been forced to grow up with the departure of their lifelong bodyguard, Brock Samson, and Dean’s growing interest in superscience has even brought out feelings of paternal pride in the prickly Dr Venture.
Former nemesis/recovering pedophile Sgt Hatred has been drafted in as the boys’ new protector, while Venture’s butterfly-themed arch-enemy/occasional comrade the Monarch continues to make attempts on the family’s life along with his wife, the former Dr Girlfriend (now Dr Mrs the Monarch – and if you don’t find that funny, this really isn’t the show for you). Former henchman 21 is determined to avenge the death of his best friend, 24, who perished in the season 3 finale – and the villainous Phantom Limb is still out for revenge on Dr Venture and on the supervilliain peak body, the Guild of Calamitous Intent (lead, of course, by David Bowie). And that's just focussing on the key plot strands.
Seems a bit complex? You have no idea. And you won't get any help from the show either.
Throughout the series characters return with no explanation, assuming that you remember that (say) Doctor Orpheus has a daughter that Dean’s in love with, or that Col. Hunter Gathers was Brock’s mentor in his previous life as an agent with the Office of Secret Intelligence. And that’s all required simply to follow the meanderings of the plot: what sort of show makes jokes based on obscure 70s UK pop acts or reasonably sophisticated knowledge of obscure outsider artist Henry Darger, much lets plots its series premiere with non-sequential scenes in which the only indication of progression is indicated via the estimated resell value of a (progressively damaged) Marvel #1 comic book? One that’s long since abandoned any notion of accessibility, that’s what sort of show.
So, in conclusion: if you’ve not come on board as yet, you’ve missed the boat. However, if you’re already there – or you’ve got access to the previous three seasons on DVD – welcome home.
Extras commentary, deleted scenes, Comic Con promo
Madman MA 15+