World Leader Entertainment/AstroBase Go/Cartoon Network (2008), Warner Home Video (March 24, 2009), 2 discs, 286 mins plus supplements, 16:9 ratio, Dolby True HD/Dolby Digital 5.1, Not Rated (the box states not recommended for viewers younger than 17), Retail: $44.98
Dr. Venture gains a new arch villain, while The Monarch enjoys marriage to Dr. Girlfriend even as he pines for the days when he could arch his most hated foe. And then there’s a bunch of other stuff that fills out the history of our favorite characters.
The Sweatbox Review:
When we last left the supervillain known as The Monarch, he had just been married to his long-time flame, Dr. Girlfriend. This occurred on the condition that he agree to stop hounding the man he considered to be his sworn enemy— Dr. Rusty Venture. (Rusty, meanwhile, remained somewhat ambivalent about The Monarch.) There was a big hullabaloo, what with Dr. Girlfriend’s ex, Phantom Limb, showing up and trying to take over everything. David Bowie was involved, the Ventures’ bodyguard Brock Sampson led Monarch’s henchmen against Phantom Limb, and on the whole it was a pretty wacky way to end the second season. Oh, and Dr. Girlfriend told the monarch something… shocking. Which the audience couldn’t hear. And there’s your cliffhanger for season two of The Venture Bros..
By this time, it had become obvious that this show could no longer be referred to simply as a spoof of Jonny Quest. Oh, no. While the show most certainly still has elements of a spoof (particularly referencing Jonny Quest, but also Doc Savage, comic books, spy shows, heavy metal bands, and much more), it has its own distinct history, mythology, and original characters. The third season went further into all of this, delving into the relationships between— well, everyone, really— and continuing to explore the machinations of the show’s unique protagonist-antagonist dynamic.
Shadowman 9: In The Cradle Of Destiny – The beginning of Season Three opens with The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend (sorry, she’s now Dr. Mrs. The Monarch) being pursued by robots belonging to their union, The Guild Of Calamitous Intent. This, unfortunately, interrupts us from the resolution of the big cliffhanger from the previous season. However, this episode does still have numerous other revelations, as the head honchos in the Guild individually interrogate The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend, and we learn of how they each came to belong to the Guild. Phantom Limb appears in flashback, and we see Monarch’s earliest arching of Dr. Venture, back in their college days. And it’s all both revelatory and funny.
The Doctor Is Sin – Dr. Henry Killinger returns, this time to guide Dr. Venture into making his operations more efficient and impressive. Naturally, no good can come of this. Just ask the Ventures’ tenant, Dr. Orpheus.
The Invisible Hand Of Fate – So many revelations! For those that wondered just what the deal was with Master Billy Quizboy and Peter White, this episode explains everything! Relive Billy and Peter’s quiz show disgrace, their employ by the OSI, and… even see the origin of The Phantom Limb, AND just how Brock winded up with the Ventures in the first place. It all ties together! Like, totally! Incidentally, some day it would be really cool for someone to re-edit the whole series into chronological order, so that we could see all of the events transpire in the order of occurrence. Yep, that’d be way neat.
Home Is Where The Hate Is – Dr. Venture meets the supervillain newly assigned to arch him— Sgt. Hatred. Oddly, Hatred seems entirely too friendly for an arch foe, but it all has to do with Hatred’s relationship with The Monarch. Of course. More revelations of the past!
The Buddy System – Rusty trades on his fame as a past boy wonder, and hosts a day camp for aspiring adventurers. Helping out are Billy and Peter, The Order Of The Triad, and even Jonny Quest himself (looking rather grizzled). Meanwhile, Dr. Girlfriend’s henchmen The Murderous Moppets attend the camp to spy on Dr. Venture for The Monarch.
Dr. Quymn, Medicine Woman – Rusty comes across his female childhood friend, who has also grown up to become a scientist, while on adventure (more or less) in the jungle. Their attempts at becoming intimate are complicated by the mystery of… The Wereodile!!! I should mention that Hank and Dean are still on this show, too, and in this episode Hank tries to get friendly with Dr. Quymn’s twin daughters, who actually like Hank, who is (as usual) oblivious, since he is more interested in The Wereodile. And yes, there is a dirty reason for the naming of this episode’s female lead, though you’ll have to look it up yourself. I ain’t tellin’.
What Goes Down, Must Come Up – Dr. Venture and Brock get trapped underground, where they encounter a tiny colleague of Rusty’s dad, and a group of fanatics whose presence was heretofore unknown. Orpheus gathers The Order Of The Triad to help Hank & Dean locate the missing persons.
Tears Of A Sea Cow – The Monarch tires of arching the lame dude that he was assigned to, and instead opts to trash the Venture compound with his best henchmen, 21 and 24. Of course, this is in violation of Guild orders, and all heck breaks loose when 21 and 24 encounter Hank and Dean.
Now Museum, Now You Don’t – Rusty’s dwarfish brother JJ, who he used to wear like a tumor in Season One, sets up a museum on Spider Skull Island, dedicated to the memory of the senior Venture and his colleagues. Everyone friendly and unfriendly attends, with The Monarch crashing the party. There are too many guest stars to list, but it’s a real party!
The Lepidopterists – JJ gets very annoyed with The Monarch, who has found a new Venture to arch. While JJ enlists the aid of hired guns to get rid of The Monarch, 21 and 24 get a special mission on Spider Skull Island. I tell, ya, I can never get enough of 21 and 24, the zaniest and nerdiest henchmen around.
ORB – Team Venture investigates a series of cryptic clues that may lead to Jonas Venture Senior’s greatest secret. Or maybe not. But the OSI isn’t taking any chances, as Brock finally fulfils his true purpose. Or maybe not. But we do learn of the origins of the Guild, not to mention old secrets of the Venture family. And it all ties together!!
The Family That Slays Together Stays Together Part One – With his failure to fully carry out his orders in the previous story, Brock becomes marked for arrest (or worse) by the OSI. He tries to force the Ventures to get to safety, but everything gets messed up, so Brock has to deal with three assassins plus Molotov Cocktease, even as he tries to keep the Ventures from getting killed in the crossfire.
The Family That Slays Together Stays Together Part Two – The Monarch and Sgt. Hatred make things even more complicated, and a huge showdown takes place with their forces, the OSI, and Team Venture. Pandemonium!! There’s lots happening to be sure, but I was left mildy unsatisfied. Maybe there just wasn’t enough of an emotional payoff to all the mayhem.
Regardless, this was another loopy, fun, and frantic season of Venture Bros.. Though it started out looking like a satire in its initial season, it certainly has become its own thing, and quite frankly there is nothing quite like it on television. It’s funny, subversive, clever, and surreal— and yet it generally delivers coherent plots that don’t leave the viewer scratching one’s head. The history lessons border on being overdone in this season, but one can’t complain when every episode turns out as hilarious as these tend to.
This season comes fully uncensored, which is a choice I’ll unfortunately have to disagree with. To me, “bleeps” are funnier than actual cussing, though I didn’t mind the swear words so much as I did the nudity. This is not an issue related to prudishness, however; if there had been some female nudity I might have enjoyed it; but the nudity on display here is primarily of the full frontal, male kind. And that just doesn’t make for a pretty picture. And even if I was gay, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t enjoy seeing Rusty’s unit swaying in the breeze. Next season, let’s keep the little guy zipped up, shall we?
Is This Thing Loaded?
Each episode gets an Audio Commentary, and if you’ve sampled these in the past you may or may not be pleased to know that these are more of the same. That is to say, you may not learn much about the show and its inspirations, but you will learn a whole lot about the creators. Good for a listen, as the creators do bring out the best on each other and they do avoid dead space, but these tracks are not really essential listening.
There is also about a half-hour of Deleted Scenes, with only one episode not being represented. The scenes are generally shown in storyboard format, along with voice tracks. While each scene was deleted for a reason, they are definitely enjoyable to see.
Plus, there is a second disc that —unusually for this year— is NOT a digital copy, but is instead a CD soundtrack release, with 20 tracks. Nice.
Though this release comes in a basically standard Blu-ray case, it does have some unusual features to it. A slipcover fits over the case, sporting a very nice Bill Sienkiewicz painting. Sienkiewicz’s art has appeared on the DVD cases in the past, but this volume certainly gives him his best exposure. The cover to the Blu-ray case inside has an amusing live action photo of the Venture Bros. cast playing an Atari-looking video game, adding to the Atari 2600 vibe that the packaging is going for. Look closely at that game, though, and you will see that the rocket ship is shooting at The Monarch’s henchmen!
While the DVD version of this release required two discs to include all the episodes, the Blu-ray gets the whole job done on one disc. As mentioned above, there is still a second disc. Placed on the inside of the front cover, facing the Blu-ray on the other side, is the soundtrack CD. Also included inside the case is an insert that serves as a “cover” for the CD (with [adult swim] DVDs being advertised on the other side), and a booklet advertising Warner Blu-rays. An episode listing for the Blu-ray disc, as well as the track listing for the CD, is found on the back cover of the case. The packaging also does warn potential viewers that the content of this program may not be suitable for viewers younger than 17.
Ink And Paint:
Also related to the packaging, but needing to be addressed in this section, is that the back cover to this release claims that the program is presented in a “Standard Version” preserving its original broadcast screen ratio. I think it’s maybe time to retire the term “standard version.” It’s quite confusing. Other releases use the term to mean that the material therein is in a 4:3 ratio, but this release is certainly 16:9 in order to fill up a widescreen display. So, for us hi-def consumers, 16:9 is “standard” at this point, but that isn’t how Warner always uses the term. For Pete’s sake, boys, just say it’s 16:9 or 1.78:1. to complicate tings further, elsewhere on the back cover, the Video specs are listed as “1080p High Definition 16:9 2.4:1”— which isn’t quite right either.
With those comments out of the way, let’s move onto the actual video quality. There are those that will be wondering if it is really worth going Blu for a show like this. The answer is… maybe. Certainly, colors never seem richer than they do in hi-def, and the picture exhibits a sharpness that DVD can’t quite match. The edges of objects, and especially text on screen, show a clarity that we don’t see on standard def. However, for many this will be a subtle upgrade. I also cannot say that this Blu-ray release entirely eradicated artifacts, either. Sure, this digital production looks practically perfect on Blu-ray, but there were a couple of instance where minor banding or shimmering could be seen. I really had to look for it, and any problems were very minor, but I saw them nonetheless. Still, compared to the previous artifact-laden DVDs, the near absence of aliasing marks a definite and substantial improvement. So, in the end, I certainly prefer the Blu-ray image, but it may not be that much of a dealmaker to those of you hoping to save a few bucks by opting for the DVD version.
As usual, note that these screen captures are not quite fully representative of the Blu-ray’s images.
Like the video specs, the packaging contradicts itself as to what soundtracks are here. I can confirm for high-end sound system owners that this Blu-ray release includes lossless audio, here presented in Dolby TrueHD. Naturally, there is a Dolby Digital 5.1 version in there too. Whichever you are capable of listening to, you will enjoy a fairly active and lively mix. The sound mixer had some fun on this show, making it a class above most television shows in the sound department. English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available as well.
I think I’ve used up most of the appropriate adjectives already. Loopy, fun, frantic, and… did I mention fun? Yes, fun! This is what cartoons are all about! Of course, these are cartoons for grown-ups, but the adult content still allows for the same feelings of joyfulness that one can get from any well-crafted cartoon. I might have preferred that certain items had remained censored, but that did little to dampen my enjoyment of this strong season of the show. It is ironic that a series that has been called a “spoof” actually has better characters, and more creativity and originality than many other so-called “original” programs.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?