The Venture Brothers has managed six seasons of quality entertainment over the last thirteen years. What inspires such fan dedication to a show that moves at a Malick level of speed? A lot of it has to do with world-building and a desire to create an environment that exists almost to spite viewer expectations. The show is seemingly powered by failure and the desire to subvert the expectations of popular male oriented adventure. No one is that great of a scientist or warrior. They just exist in 9 to 5 jobs that might end with them getting stomped to death by killer robots.
Before the greater spiel begins, here’s a cheat sheet for people that just want to start watching now without doing a ton of research.
The Venture Brothers began life in media res. Brock Samson serves the family as their bodyguard, while Dr. Rusty Venture continues to live his in late father’s shadow. After trying to present a Death Ray to the United Nations in the pilot, the show begins in earnest. The Monarch gets his introduction, as well as Molotov Cocktease and the magical Doctor Orpheus. Hank and Dean Venture discover the members of their grandfather’s 1960s era adventure team. While reuniting them, they realize that a life in super science doesn’t always end pleasantly. If that wasn’t enough, Dean begins a total beta love affair with Triana Orpheus.
The Monarch goes on a trial, but breaks up with his lover Dr. Girlfriend. Girlfriend finds herself back in the arms of her ex-love Phantom Limb. All the while, Rusty Venture’s stomach pains are revealed to be a parasitic twin that has been growing like a tumor inside of him for the last forty years. Hank and Dean run away from home, as they think their father is pregnant with a baby brother that will replace them. While on the run, the titular brothers get blown away by the Monarch’s henchmen 21 and 24. Rusty’s tumor turns out to be quite charming and rather closer in action and appearance to Rusty’s own father. The tiny Jonas Venture, Jr. leaves Rusty after Rusty gifts him the use of their father’s Spider-Skull Island.
Rusty Venture runs away from his life, after the boys die. Brock Samson tracks him down and forces him to return to reality. Returning to his life, Rusty clones Hank and Dean for the 15th time. It turns out that the kids are way older than they look due to the fact that Hank’s idiocy and Dean’s fear of everything leads them to doom. Well, except for the gas leak. That was just poor Venture Compound maintenance. This season features The Monarch on the run from the law, Brock Samson initially joining the OSI, Pete White and Billy Quizboy starting to get prominent supporting roles and the introduction of David Bowie as the Sovereign of the Guild of the Calamitous Intent.
The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend get married and take over Phantom Limb’s old house. The audience also learns how Brock Samson came to be the bodyguard for the Ventures. Billy Quizboy’s origins are revealed, as we see that his life has certainly gone to hell since meeting Pete White. The Order of the Triad get their first major case, as Doctor Orpheus has to deal with his daughter growing up. Also, Dermott makes his first appearance as the scumbag kid that everybody knew at one point in their lives. The Monarch also finds himself being forced to antagonize other people than Rusty Venture. The result is that he murders the rather benign manatee supervillain that would later be revealed as the brother of Season 6’s big bad. But, that’s getting ahead of the material.
The season ends on a big series of moment for Brock Samson. After messing up a deal between OSI and The Monarch, Samson gets his license to kill revoked. While trying to return to the Venture family, Brock learns that this also means he’s been targeted for execution. While picking off the world’s top three assassins, Brock realizes that he’s never going to be free of this life. So, he fakes his death. Henchman 24 also dies in the explosive blast that destroys most of Venture robot butler Helper’s body. During this scuffle, all of Hank and Dean’s clones are destroyed by the Monarch’s Death Head suit.
Hank takes Brock’s old denim jacket, believing that his hero bodyguard has died. Dean has to come to terms with murdering the Hitler possessed bulldog that he’s recently befriended. That’s just the first ten minutes of the opening episode, people. Hank gets kidnapped after learning that Brock is still alive. During this kidnapping, Hank is rescued by the pedophile superhero Captain Sunshine. Imagine a child rapist Superman with Bruce Wayne style trappings. This world’s version of the Justice League serves as his news team on NYC’s leading channel, but even they find the situation odd. Rusty Venture knows all about Captain Sunshine and tries to convince Hank not to be his new boy sidekick, but it takes Sunshine’s creepy dealings to finally push Hank away.
Dr. Rusty Venture gets some more time to deal with his past while in therapy with former boy adventurers. Henchman 21 teams up with Brock to reveal some dark secrets about OSI and Billy Quizboy gets to put his medical skills to use. Everything builds to Dean trying to reject his father’s career path, while putting the moves on Triana Orpheus. Triana realizes that she doesn’t need any guy like Dean and goes off with her Criss Angel style boyfriend. Everything builds to Molotov Cocktease killing herself to take out Brock’s enemy Monstroso. Hank, Dermott and Helper also start a band called Shallow Gravy.
Hank and Dean celebrate Halloween by meeting a friend of their grandfather. The friend reveals that Hank and Dean are clones, finally letting the Brothers in on the secret that has been kept from them. Billy Quizboy finally gets an enemy in the form of Augustus St. Cloud, as the rotund St. Cloud tries to buy away everything that matters in Billy’s life. In flashbacks, we learn that Jonas Venture Sr spent the 1960s fighting L. Ron Hubbard in international waters. It’s also revealed that Team Venture member Colonel Gentleman was in a bisexual love affair with NASA pioneering astronaut Wally Schirra. It’s later revealed that Molotov and Monstroso survived the Season 4 finale, but not without dire consequences.
Monstroso is being leaned on to give up the secret members of the Guild of Calamitious Intent. One by one, the Guild members die and OSI has to get involved to stop it. Henchman 21 leads a revolt of the Monarch’s men against The Pupae Twins, while a drunken Sgt. Hatred tries to kill The Monarch after he seemingly killed Rusty Venture. This results in a lot of property destruction, dead dwarves and the Monarch returning to his childhood home ala the Mad Men Season 6 finale.
The 6th year of the show opens with the special “All This and Gargantua-2”. JJ Venture has turned Jonas Sr.’s Gargantua 2 space station into a super rich casino. While bringing the Ventures and various bigwigs to the space station, Rusty learns that his former tumor brother is dying. JJ’s cells never fully developed, so cancer is spreading through his rapidly deteriorating body. Dr. Henry Killinger has formed a Revenge Society to destroy the Ventures at their lowest moment. On Earth, Dr. Girlfriend finally realizes who has been killing off the Guild with the help of Monstroso. It’s the Sovereign, as he’s getting tired of mucking his David Bowie self with his villainous doings. This leads to Dr. Girlfriend nearly getting killed and Bowie getting shot while shape shifting into his eagle form.
The space station? JJ dies moving the destroyed space station away from humanity. Everybody else successfully evacuates back to Earth. At the will reading, Rusty is given complete control of Venture Industries and his father’s NYC compound. The action moves to NYC where Rusty blows through massive amounts of cash, while The Monarch learns more about his past. It turns out that The Monarch’s dad was the superhero known as the Blue Morpho. In fact, the Blue Morpho and Team Venture were best buddies. So much that Jonas Venture and Blue Morpho used to have swinger parties where they banged B-list beauties of the 1960s. While this is going on, a new villain named Wide Wale is revealed as the Kingpin of NYC crime. He’s also the brother of a villain that The Monarch killed in Season 3. As such, he’s targeted the Monarch for complete destruction while alienating the Monarch from Dr. Girlfriend. Hank’s also falling in love with Wide Wale’s daughter. The least said about Brock’s sexual attraction to the Wonder Woman of this universe, the better. But, you’ve still got 3-4 weeks left in this season. Go watch it Sundays @ Midnight on Adult Swim.
BACK TO THE SPIEL
Rusty Venture is the actualized Mad Scientist. Growing up as part of a super science legacy, Rusty has been trained to view life without the limits of finance or possibility. However, he’s a failure. Rusty never had to earn anything or felt the drive that powered his father. While very little is known about his mother, it’s assumed that his balding and pessimism stems from that side of the family. Jonas Venture, Sr. has yet to be portrayed as anything other than Sean Connery era Bond stand-in. Jonas was Doc Savage by way of Matt Helm and nothing stood in his way. The guy also victimized underlings and was known to cause accidents that mutilated kids. The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree in some regards.
So much of the show lives on treating male fiction of the last 100 years as historical artifact. When one creates a world that treats daring astronauts, champion boxers and masked vigilantes as important cultural figures, things get weird. What makes the show work is that they dare to say what if Superman, Batman or Spider-Man existed? They’d be treated as freaks and mocked when put against societal norms. It’s weird to keep orphaned boys as your comfort toys or to be able to shoot webs out of your body. Super science is messy when in practice, but you do get a few cool moments. However, “The Venture Brothers” is about the times between the flashy fights. What happens when people who are forced to live at the edge are now told to slow down? Naturally, they freak out.
The show has worked over the last six years, because it takes popular fiction out of a vacuum. If a viewer could run popular fiction parallel to world history, the audience would see strange things emerge. The first being that heroic avatars are created without consequence or rules. Second, readers don’t think about what happens after Jonny Quest is cancelled or the stories fold. Finally, these semi constructed people have to exist in the same society as the normals. If you gallivant across the world and shoot down space stations, how are you expected to do your taxes?
In a way, “The Venture Brothers” almost does a better job explaining away super villains like The Monarch instead of any Venture. If you had the means to break out of the norm, but you didn’t want to calm it down…what would you do? Embrace the weird, get Jill St. John to have sex with you and hang out with a possibly Satanic Henry Kissinger. Bless this show for existing and answering the questions that need to be answered.
The Venture Brothers airs Sundays at Midnight on Adult Swim.