The Internet has replaced campfires, coffee shops, and the halls of academia as the place where mankind’s greatest questions about life are debated endlessly, because they are never answered. Although there never has been nor will there ever be any accepted universal truths by the planet’s entire population, a great many opinions are presented on a great many websites in a great many languages regarding the existence of God, the ethicality of abortion, and who the all-time greatest guitarist is.
One new argument recently added to canon seeks to determine the greatest cartoon show. The contenders currently put forth for the title by fans are The Simpsons, South Park, and Family Guy. Neither of these is correct for a variety of reasons. The Simpsons is somehow still coasting off its first four seasons, South Park has a very infrequent good episode in a season, and Family Guy illustrates the corrosive nature of marijuana on regions of the brain no matter how cool the bong looks.
The main reason those shows are wrong is because the actual answer is the Venture Bros. from Adult Swim, a brilliant spoof of boys’ adventure stories and superheroes. Aside from being well drawn and presented in Glorious Extra Color, they tell funny stories with surprisingly believable characters under the circumstances. The show is chock full of funny pop culture references that blend into the story rather than stick out like a sore thumb because of a writer’s limited skills, a condition the people at Webster’s Dictionary aren’t sure whether to refer to as Tarantinoesque or MacFarlanesque.
The first season of the Venture Bros. ended dramatically with the deaths of twin brothers Hank and Dean, leaving fans to wonder how the show would proceed. Season Two begins with Dr. Venture going on a worldwide sabbatical from Venture Industries to find life’s meaning. The viewer is meant to think the series has moved on as Venture and his brother Jonas Jr. are now shown in the stylized opening credits where the boys used to be. Dr. Orpheus searches for the boys’ souls, and ultimately they return in what is quite possibly the smartest resolution to a television show cliffhanger, which won’t get the credit due because it’s a cartoon.
While the shows don’t have to be seen in order, it does enrich the experience because unlike other shows the characters don’t return to the same starting point at the beginning of each episode. The mythology of the characters continues, such as the ever-evolving love triangle between Dr. Girlfriend and her two suitors, the super-villains Phantom Limb and The Monarch.
This season brings back Prof. Impossible, voiced by Stephen Colbert, and Brock’s ex-girlfriend, the former Russian spy Molotov Cocktease. It also expands the universe of characters with the Grand Galactic Inquisitor, an observer from beyond the stars who is hard to ignore, and based a similarly named gonzo journalist, Hunter Gathers, Brock’s mentor when he previously worked at OSI, the Office of Secret Intelligence.
The Tick creator Ben Edlund contributes to the series with a co-story credit on “Guess Who’s Coming To State Dinner?” and writing the episode “¡Viva los Muertos!” featuring a bizarre amalgamation of characters that combine the Scooby Doo gang with notorious Americans, such as Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, and Pamela Hearst.
The DVDs don’t present the shows unedited, so the cursing is still bleeped and the nudity pixilated, which is probably funnier. There are deleted scenes that weren’t animated, so the audio plays over sketches. As with the previous release, the commentaries by creators Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick are dull and only occasionally deal with the episode. If these two were talking like this at a party, you would get up and leave the room. Publick doesn’t sound mic’d properly, and after the first couple I gave up. After seeing Hammer and Publick during the tour of Astro-base Go, I believe characters Pete White and Master Billy Quizboy are based on them, and in a funny twist, they perform the voice of the other character.
Do yourself a favor and pick up this DVD set or watch the program on Cartoon Network. You’re on your own for the rest of life’s mysteries, although Jimi Hendrix is hard to argue against.