World Leader Entertainment/AstroBase Go/Cartoon Network (2006), Warner Home Video (April 17, 2007), 2 discs, 295 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original full frame ratio, Dolby Digital 5.1/2.0 Stereo, Not Rated (the box states not recommended for viewers younger than 14), Retail: $29.98
The Venture boys, dead when last seen, return for another season of weird shenanigans.
The Sweatbox Review:
So, what do you do after murdering the eponymous stars of your cartoon show? If you are Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer, you could re-purpose the series’ title by adding another Venture brother and make it about Dr. Venture and his sibling Jonas Junior, which is exactly how it appeared that they were going to handle it when Season One of The Venture Bros. ended. However, like much of this show, the unexpected happened…
The“senior” Venture brothers set-up continues with the first episode of Season Two, Powerless In The Face Of Death (even to the point of using a new title sequence), and the two creators keep the audience guessing throughout most of the episode. The most tortured soul in all this is poor Dr. Orpheus, the Ventures’ overwrought necromantic neighbour. He is still beating himself up over his role in the twins’ death, and he becomes even more distraught when it appears he has turned them into zombies. In the end, though, the cosmic reset button is utilized as we learn a disturbing truth about Hank and Dean Venture, and those moronic but good-intentioned boy adventurers are quickly brought back to continue facing the forces of evil-ness with their loser inventor dad and his testosterone-fuelled bodyguard Brock Samson.
If it wasn’t already apparent, this show long ago abandoned the simplistic description of “Jonny Quest parody” it is often given. Publick and Hammer have a whole other thing going on here, a show with a unique vibe that transcends easy labelling. Oh, there are Quest references to be sure— including grown-up versions of Jonny, Hadji, and Race that appear in various episodes this season; but this set of episodes is more about Dr. Venture and his foes than it is about making fun of old cartoons. The first episode is a prime example as, aside from bringing back the twins, it continues the story of Dr. Venture’s arch-nemesis The Monarch, who plans a prison break at the same time that his henchmen are attending a support group for abandoned minions.
In Hate Floats, The Monarch is loose, and his henchmen are given renewed purpose. Soon, good ol’ Henchmen 21 and 24 are beating the streets looking for recruits to aid The Monarch in his battles with Dr. Venture. The Monarch is a very busy butterfly, too, as he also launches Operation: Get Back Dr. Girlfriend, since his deep-voiced paramour is still with the notorious Phantom Limb. When Dr. Venture is captured, the boys team up with Dr. Girlfriend to save him, and Brock teams up with Phantom Limb. A free-for-all ensues, as all roads lead to The Monarch. Love-Bheits gets us away from The Monarch for a bit, as Team Venture’s jet is brought down in Underland, the domain of Baron Underbheit. Unfortunately, the team had just been to a theme costume party, and most of them are dressed as Star Wars characters. That’s bad news for Dean, since he was dressed as Leia in her slave outfit, and the Baron decides to make Dean his wife! The eunuchs in the castle find it all quite a hoot, let me tell you.
Escape To The House Of Mummies (Part 2) failed to make much of an impression with me. It’s a fun idea, skipping the first part altogether to get right to the action-packed finale, but it all made little sense doing it this way. Actually, I think it was all supposed to be nonsensical, as the pyramid/time travel plot was all over the place. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t all that funny, though it did have its moments, such as the depiction of Dr. Venture’s science-versus-magic rivalry with Dr. Orpheus.
20 To Midnight brings back Jonas Junior, who is enlisted to provide help in tracking down artefacts left by Jonas Senior, in order to defeat a menace from space. It is here that we encounter a grown-up, pathetic Jonny Quest, but a better highlight is the trip back to the Impossible Family headquarters. This one is pretty good, but it only gets better with Victor. Echo. November, which features double dates with Phantom Limb/Dr. Girlfriend and The Monarch/hired help, at the same time that the Venture boys are with Orpheus’ daughter Triana and her friend. As you might expect, all sorts of heck breaks loose, and it’s all darn funny. Things slow down just a tad in Assassinanny 911, where Brock call upon old flame Molotov Cocktease to baby-sit the Venture family. The task is completely beneath her, but she complies because of her respect for Brock. She begins to regret it, though, when Hank falls in love with her, and Dr. Venture falls in lust.
Fallen Arches provides a closer look at the workings of the Guild Of Calamitous Intent, as the Guild offers Dr. Orpheus and his former colleagues in The Order Of The Triad, Jackson Twilight and The Alchemist, a chance to gain their own arch-foe for their team. The ol’ team is a little long in the teeth, but they get their juices pumping when presented with the opportunity to have their own assigned nemesis. Supervillain try-outs are held at the Venture compound, which you just know is going to be fun. 21 and 24 get some primo scenes once again, as they discuss branching out into doing their own “arching”, but The Monarch’s scenes in this one are a weird waste.
Speaking of such, one of the lesser episodes is up next, that being Guess Who’s Coming To State Dinner? There are some laughs in this tale of Gargantua-1’s commander being given a state dinner at the White House, while his mom’s assassination attempt is foiled by the ghost of Abraham Lincoln, but this is definitely a weaker episode. It just goes to show how much this show sings when it focuses on The Monarch and his henchmen. Fortunately, that problem is remedied quickly in I Know Why The Caged Bird Kills, which sees The Monarch accidentally attack his accountant’s office rather than the Ventures. This screw-up leads to The Monarch taking advice from the enigmatic Dr. Henry Killinger, who exerts his influence to make The Monarch’s team immediately less inept. This unnerves 21 and 24, but the true motive of Dr. Killenger will be more astounding than anyone could have guessed. Also, the B story sees Dean and Hank kidnapped by… their mom?!
The Monarch returns to his previous ways in the next episode, as his henchmen are badly beaten during their attack on the Ventures in Viva Los Muertos! Following the battle, Dr. Venture creates a “Venturestein” abomination out of henchmen corpses, a grotesque turn of events that leads to the compound being investigated by a group of four people and their dog touring the country in their van. Yes, it’s time for Scooby-Doo to be lampooned, but not in the obvious ways that were covered by the live action/CGI movies. Here, the “Fred” character is a controlling fiend who imposes his will on the others. Use of old Hanna-Barbera sound effects helps to make this even more fun.
And then there is the grand, two-part finale (this one even has both parts!). Showdown At Cremation Creek (Part 1) finds The Monarch reunited at last with Dr. Girlfriend, who insists that he give up his arching ways and forget about Dr. Venture once and for all. The repercussions of this, particularly after his henchmen go on a drunk and actually capture all of Team Venture as a wedding gift, are hilarious indeed. Phantom Limb, apparently driven crazy by jealousy, interrupts the Monarch’s wedding but Limb’s motivations are not nearly as romantic as they first seem in Showdown At Cremation Creek (Part 2). The second season ends in fine style in an episode that is both action-packed and filled with terrific humorous writing.
Despite a couple of duds in this set, I would still heartily recommend this season to anyone who enjoyed the first. The creators found comic gold in The Monarch and his henchmen this season, and it is perhaps only the exclusion of these characters that made a couple of episodes less rewarding to watch. The show remains decidedly not for kids, as even with naughty bits blurred out and colourful language bleeped out, there are still plenty of adult-themed moments here that many parents would not care to expose their kids to.
Is This Thing Loaded?
Well, if you like Audio Commentaries, then this is the set for you! Each episode has its own track featuring creators Publick and Hammer, with guest appearances by voice actors James Urbaniak and Michael Sinterniklaas. As those who listened to the Publick/Hammer commentaries from Season One know, these two fellas don’t necessarily talk a whole lot about the episode they are watching, preferring to ramble on about a variety of topics that the episode brings to mind. This approach is naturally hit-or-miss, but for true fans of the show listening to the commentaries at least offers an alternate way of the viewing an episode you have already seen a few times. The commentaries are selectable after choosing an episode to watch from the episode menu.
If the commentaries don’t thrill you, you may also be disappointed in Tour Of AstroBase Go (16:08). Even more than the commentaries, this piece just rambles on. A three-minute mockumentary set-up on AstroBase Go (the name of the Venture Bros.’ animation studio) is followed by narration from Peter White and Billy as they watch Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer walk through the animation building for three more minutes. The next ten minutes don’t get any more exciting. Nice try, but… boring.
Lastly, and best of all by far, there are 21 minutes of Deleted Scenes, in various stages of completion varying from storyboards to fully completed animation.
The retro feel of the show carries over into its packaging, which is designed in the style of a 1960s movie press kit, complete with “age marks” that make the whole package appear to be an old collectible item. The artwork is very sweet. It just makes you feel very good about purchasing the set. (There is also an insert advertising other [adult swim] DVDs.)
Ink And Paint:
Except for many of the opening teasers being in letterboxed widescreen, the show is presented in television’s standard 4:3 ratio. The picture is perfect much of the time, using spotless source material; but the transfers do get slightly shimmer-y at times. Overall, this is a minor complaint (it’s less noticeable than in Justice League: Season Two, for example) but does knock the rating down a tad.
In a wonderful surprise, Warner offers up full 5.1 tracks on these discs! Even the packaging doesn’t mention this, so I was pleasantly surprised upon viewing the discs. Better yet, these are not just over-glorified Stereo mixes (the broadcast Stereo mix is also available for comparison); the 5.1 tracks truly sing. The over-the-top nature of the show makes it a perfect candidate to pump the sound field full of the show’s typically corny (but wonderful) music and creative sound effects. One might wonder if a comedy truly needs a 5.1 upgrade, but it works beautifully here. Crank it up, and enjoy hearing the Venture theme blasting out of all your speakers.
Subtitles are available in English, French, or Spanish.
Buy this one for the very funny show, not the so-so extras. The episodes themselves will keep you cracking up, especially if you’re at all tuned into that 60’s spoof shtick. If you haven’t tried out the show before, you should pick up Season One first, then go out and buy this one because it’s just as good. In this season, the creators had figured out which characters made for the best comedy, and as a result most of these episodes are truly funny. I would have enjoyed seeing more of Peter White and Billy, or the Impossibles, but it’s hard to argue with bringing in 21 and 24 as often as possible. (A little less of Dr. Orpheus would have been okay, though.) There’s never been a show quite like this one, and I’m glad to have discovered it on DVD.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?