To say loyal viewers of The Venture Bros. were left hanging this season is an enormous understatement. Halfway through season four, episode eight to be precise, kaboom! No more episodes. Since each of the previous three seasons was, on average, 13 episodes, fans felt a little gypped.
On Sept. 12, redemption and closure are the order of the day as Adult Swim begins airing the second half of The Venture Bros., season four. When last we left the Hank, Dean, Dr. Venture and crew, The Monarch, Dr. Venture’s archenemy, was zeroing in on his target. The Monarch is obsessed with Dr. Venture for crimes (some real, some imagined) that occurred decades ago, when they attended the same college.
It’s just that kind of back-story that makes The Venture Bros. not just an awesome visual experience, but also a uniquely cerebral one as well. The basic plot of the series goes like this: Dr. Venture is a washed-up super scientist who is constantly living in his father’s shadow. He has two boys, Hank and Dean, who have been killed, cloned and re-cloned so many times Dr. Venture has lost count. The boys are clueless to their true selves but go on living their lives as viewers enjoy the obvious homage to classic cartoon characters. The whole show is one giant homage, in fact, with pointless villains with a never-ending supply of ridiculous plots to capture or kill their enemies, story lines that mimic those of once great cartoons, and clothes that, once again, hark back to the aforementioned classics. In addition to fantastic writing, The Venture Bros. is a memory-jarring look back at the absurdity of the Saturday morning cartoons we were raised on.
Of late the Monarch is becoming more and more obsessed with Dr. Venture, while simultaneously abandoning his duties as leader of a swarm of henchmen. Dr. Venture, on the other hand, remains blissfully uninterested in the Monarch’s constant plots, and so continues to plot his return to greatness, a feat apparently just out of reach but actually well beyond his grasp.
The writing is tip-on, and very little goes unexplained. And there is a lot to explain in this dramatic/comedic masterpiece. With dozens of main and secondary characters, the web of relationships and past lives is mind-boggling.
Jackson Public, the creator of the show and its main writer, created the cult classic animated series The Tick in the 1990s. Those who recognized his genius in that show followed his career and almost certainly became fans of The Venture Bros. Those fans have helped support an artistically superb cartoon as well as the accompanying merchandise line, offering everything from vinyl figures to high-quality prints.
“The Diving Bell Vs. The Butter Glider,” the first new episode, begins in total chaos. Bullets are flying and Dr. Venture is unconscious while the three Ventures and their new bodyguard, Sergeant Hatred, are pursued by the Monarch’s flying flagship cocoon. We soon find out (sort of ) what’s ailing the good doctor and Brock (the old Venture bodyguard and current member of the mysterious Sphinx paramilitary unit), while Hatred and the boys go on a fantastic voyage to save the elder Venture. The results are classic Venture Bros., with twists and turns and backstory revelations around every corner.
Meanwhile, Henchman 21, a former coward and lay-about who has of late become the real fighting force behind the Monarch’s legion of fighters, has had it with the shoddy equipment and poor planning plaguing the hunt for Dr. Venture. The Monarch is nowhere to be found, off indulging a somewhat lurid fantasy-cometrue. With both the main characters essentially out of the picture, “The Diving Bell Vs. The Butter Glider” allows secondary and even tertiary characters to step up and have their own personalities explicated, imbuing The Venture Bros. with continued depth and endless side stories, all of which would be worth exploring.
So is the second half of season four worth the ridiculously long wait? Without a doubt. Fans of the show will pick right up with the increasingly complex and ever-intertwining plot, while newcomers have a whole lot of old episodes to cull through to understand just what the hell is going on. All four seasons are available on iTunes, and most are also sold on DVD through the Adult Swim store. No matter what your choice of delivery, all of the past seasons are worth the price. If “The Diving Bell Vs. The Butter Glider” is any indication, the remainder of season four will be no exception. Now begins the wait for season five.