One of the few exceptions to Adult Swim’s blatant ridicule of the animation medium has always been “The Venture Brothers,” with its kind-hearted homages to the invention-fiction genre that got its start with Tom Swift novellas and ended with Jonny Quest. Its sophomore season, now on DVD, picks up after the sudden deaths of its title characters, Hank and Dean Venture—the emotionally-stunted sons of a third generation super scientist.
Show creator, Jackson Publick, and co-writer, Doc Hammer, have proven their ability to wriggle free from a tight squeeze after they apparently wrote themselves into a corner, but it’s unclear if they are crafty storytellers or, afraid that fickle network executives will end theseries unexpectedly, just trying to give their throng of loyal fanboys the immediate gratification that they feel they deserve. Efforts to round out the dimensionality of the characters do pay off, even if they draw some criticism from hardcore viewers. Take, for example, the Venture family bodyguard, Brock Samson, who, in season one, made very liberal use of his license to kill. Now he checks the boys for head lice and gives them advice about girls en route to their first date. But frankly, this gives the show just what it needed: a mother figure. With the majority of female parts taken by psychopathic femme fatales and prostitutes, “The Venture Brothers” is a No Girls Allowed excursion. The exception to this is Dr. Girlfriend who, in archetypal female fashion, is usually the voice of reason to her Y-chromosone cohorts. Ironically, that voice is (literally) the voice of a man.
Take away the great external and internal packaging, and there aren’t much to the DVD extras. However, the episodes themselves successfully build upon the entertaining pastiche of nerd and hipster detritus that has been initially established. It all succeeds in showing that the lives of boy sleuths, super scientists and arch villains are just as sad and disappointing as everyone else’s.