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The Venture Bros.: Season Two

The final episode of the Venture Bros. premiere season saw its two main characters brutally (and hilariously) slaughtered. So how the heck could creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer continue their bizarre Jonny Quest homage with the actual Venture brothers, Hank and Dean, now taking a dirt nap? As should be expected by fans of this brilliant, ultra-violent, and insanely clever animated offering, the answer is very, very weird — and it explains many of the boys' hinted-at origins from the previous season. As hard as it may be to believe, Season Two not only continued the inspired genius of the previous episodes, but surpassed them, taking the story in even stranger directions with ever more wildly creative characters and plots. "Viva Los Muertos!" offered a very grown-up version of the original Scooby-Doo gang stumbling upon the Venture compound and believing it to be a "vampire and Frankenstein factory," while "Escape to the House of Mummies (Part II)" hilariously picks up after an imagined Part One that, it would appear, got lost along the way (and references just enough oddness to allow the viewer to fill in the blanks as to what happened in Part One.)  In "Hate Floats," The Monarch escapes from prison and attempts to win back the affections of Dr. Girlfriend, who's now allied herself with Monarch's rival, The Phantom Limb. In "Twenty Years to Midnight," the Ventures' race to acquire the parts necessary to create a sort of anti-doomsday device brings them into contact with an adult, drug-addicted and quite mad Jonny Quest and with The Impossibles, a very funny Fantastic Four homage — they also come up against The Grand Galactic Inquisitor, voiced by Stephen Colbert. In perhaps the funniest episode of the season, "Victor, Echo, November," Hank and Dean go on a date with Dr. Morpheus' daughter Triana and her friend Kim at the same restaurant where Monarch is bringing his Internet flame, Jollyrancher82, in an attempt to make Dr. Girlfriend jealous — between the gawky teen awkwardness of the socially inept Venture boys attempting to date and some four different, conflicting anecdotal explanations of Phantom Limb's origins, there's barely a moment that isn't insanely funny. The two-part season closer, "Showdown at Cremation Creek," finds Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend headed to the altar, which naturally leads to a kidnapping, an attack by David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Klaus Nomi, and a subplot that features a hallucinating Dean believing that he's on a "Lord of the Rings"-style quest that references Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, and Fantasia. The entire 13-show run is jam-packed full of so many surprising turns, zany pop culture riffs, inspired characters, and jaw-droppingly off-kilter dialogue that it's hard to imagine Publick and Hammer maintaining the pace for yet another season — but the Venture Bros. universe is so rich and full of possibilities, almost anything could happen next. And hopefully will.

Warner Home Video's DVD release of the Cartoon Network series offers terrific transfers of all 13 episodes in the original full-frame aspect ratio. There's some artifacting during scenes with a lot of fast movement, but it's a minor problem. The DD 5.1 surround audio  (English, with optional English, Spanish and French subtitles) is superb, offering a real reason to buy the DVDs — the sound mix is surprisingly subtle and complex, with the engineers making use of different channels for music and sound effects. Extras include commentary tracks on each episode by Publick and Hammer (with assistance on some episodes from the voice actors) that are funny, candid, and offer some solid background info. There's also a very, very funny "Tour of Astrobase-Go" (20 min.), which takes the viewer to the orbiting moon base where Publick and Hammer make the show, and deleted scenes. As with the previous season's release, the entire set is a good-looking two-disc digipak in a cardboard slipcase, with artwork created special for the DVD.
—Dawn Taylor

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