Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick’s animated saga of busted childhood dreams, The Venture Bros., begins as a parody of the 1964 cartoon Johnny Questa touchstone of cool for boomer-boys (fondly remembered, Johnny turned up on a TV set in The Incredibles 2). But the Ventures have left the realm of ordinary parody far behind.
Ventures students know the language: the humiliating lives of “henches” (short for henchmen) as well as the criminal follyand trust fundsinvolved in “arching,” or being an arch-enemy. Now we know why comic book villains always get away. Apparently, the push and pull between good and evil is regulated by stringent labor laws. One episode in season 7 is devoted to the contract talks between the federal investigators the OSI, and the Guild of Calamitous Intent, the villains’ union.
Two pillars of competence here: the hulking mulleted OSI bodyguard, Brock Samson (voiced in a John Wayne drawl by Patrick Warburton), and the attractive yet gravel-voiced Dr. Mrs.The Monarch, simultaneously a rising Guild power and loyal wife to that butterfly of peril. The Monarch, with his itty-bitty crown and fail-prone schemes, is having tough times. He has a low Guild rating and an empty bank account. This season, the Monarch plumbs new depths of ineptitude, a level matched only by his constant foe, Dr. Rusty Venture.
Voiced by James Urbaniak in a Jack Lemmon squawk, this Rusty is a former child star type. He’s a would-be swinger whose idea of cool is stuck in 1964. In Rusty’s defense, he’s also a PTSD sufferer scarred by the adventures he was dragged through as a child by his alpha-male dad Dr. Jonas Venture. Rusty’s backward twin sons Dean and Hank are starting to grow up. Signs point to a confrontation between the brothers over Hank’s first serious girlfriend, Sirena.
The complexity of this steadily maturing satireskewering Marvel comics and Eyes Wide Shut in one episodesuggests Thomas Pynchon is an unbilled writer. J. G. Thirlwell’s smashing spy-jazz soundtrack is at a maximum level of hysterical trumpets and sinister piano. All the broken dreams of the 1960s weren’t about protests and Nixon; some are about space-age fantasies and the futuristic Tomorrowlands allegedly awaiting boomer kids. The Venture Bros sensibly asks what part of this pop futurism was entertainment, and what was just colonizing kid’s brains to make them soldiers and spooks. A possible moral: Just as Nietzsche warned that those who fight dragons must worry about becoming one, a person following childhood dreams may end up as a fogbound child.
The Venture Bros.