Together, Jackson Publick & Doc Hammer have created an amazing fictional universe in The Venture Bros. Over 63 episodes, a pilot, and three specials, they have introduced viewers to an imagantive menagerie of mad scientists, magicians, and monsters, as well a seemingly never-ending collection of costumed heroes and supervillians. It is also filled with pop-culture references from our world. The series started as an adventure series spoofing Johnny Quest, but has since evolved into a dramedy about characters trying to find their place in the world.
After the Fourth Season of The Venture Bros. ended in 2010, the series went on hiatus. It returned in 2013 for the Fifth Season, or Season Five depending upon what part of the packaging, which resembles an old Hardy Boys book, you look at. Between seasons, two specials aired, one each year. First, there was “From the Ladle to the Grave: The Shallow Gravy Story,” a biography about Hank Venture’s garage band, and then “A Very Venture Halloween,” which occurs during the first commercial break of Season Five opener, “What Color Is Your Cleansuit?” They are included in this set as well as the season’s eight episodes.
The Venture Bros. has a continuing narrative rather than restarting each episode with a clean slate. This causes the characters and their relationships to one another to change and allows for plots that not only move the story forward but also fill in or create new history. An example of the latter is “Spanakopita!” about a yearly festival Dr. Rusty Venture attends on a small Greek island, even though this is the first season we are learning of it.
The only drawback is that with such a short season and so many characters to choose from, like Billy Quizboy and his nemesis, film-prop collector Augustus St. Cloud, and the spy organization OSI, there’s only so much they can cover in each episode, so the characters’ individual stories don’t progress that far.
There are some great pop-culture gags this season. My favorite might be when the Monarch and his wife, Dr. Mrs. Monarch, have some role-play confusion in the bedroom when he dresses like Drogo from Games of Thrones and she thinks he is going to be Drago from Rocky IV. The season had a number of guest stars like Hank Aziz, Paget Brewster, Bill Hader, John K. Hodgman, Kate McKinnon, Tim Meadows, Bendon Small, and Dana Snyder.
The video has been given a 1080p/VC-1 video encoded transfer, which benefits much of the artwork. Colors appear in bright hues and blacks are rich. Foreground objects, especially of things animated, are usually well defined with thin black lines. Other items, particularly in the background have softer edges. Rare banding and aliasing appears on occasion. The audio is a front-heavy Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that delivers clear dialogue and servicable effects.
The best of the Special Features are the commentary tracks on each episode and the Halloween special by Publick and Hammer, which are more random conversations about a myriad of topics than discussions about the episode playing. When not pointing out flaws in story or artwork, their very entertaining tangets cover topics such as masturbation, cover bands they saw, Pippin, and the theme song of Boardwalk Empire (which they don’t find matches the tone of show). At one point, they even read and comment upon people on an old list of up-and-coming under-30-year-olds. There are also Deleted Scenes (6 min) from three episodes and an additional one appearing as Fax My Grandson (3 min). Also included is a maxi-single CD of “Jacket” by Shallow Gravy.
While Season Four understandably had detractors, The Venture Bros.: The Fifth Season is more focused in story and provides a lot of laughs, although those jumping into the show at this point might leave viewers confused about what is going on. Hopefully, fans won’t have to wait three years for Season Six, but they should be happy to have this in their collection.