For those who aren’t familiar with it, The Venture Bros. can be a difficult show to describe.
Okay. To be fair one could describe it fairly easily as a send-up of boys’ adventure stories, superhero comic books, three decades worth of various Saturday Morning cartoon shows and pop culture in general. It’s about a world – not too different from our own – where Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper faked their deaths to become super-villains, henchmen have a union with a strict code of conduct and “boy adventurer” is a legitimate occupation for a home-schooled teenager. But after five seasons and three specials it is so much more than that.
Perhaps it is best described, as creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer describe it, as a show about failure . Both the personal failures of the protagonists and the failure of humanity to bring about the future promised by the science fiction of The Atomic Age and The Space Race. The pop-stars turned super-villains, unionized henchmen and boy adventurers are just the icing on the cake.
Even the show’s title is an act of misdirection at this point, with the titular Venture Brothers (there are five of them now, not counting the clones – long story) not being the show’s central characters. In fact, as Publick and Hammer have almost gleefully pointed out, many of the series’ most recent episodes didn’t involve The Venture Family at all.
That’s not the case with this most recent Venture Bros. special, dubbed The Venture Bros. Space Special. Because it takes place in space!
The plot centers around the unveiling of Gargantua-2 – a giant orbiting city built to replace Gargantua-1, which longtime fans of the series will remember crashed to Earth way back in the second season. The new station is the brainchild of Jonas Venture Jr. who hopes to succeed where his father failed in making life in space viable for the general public. How? By turning the state-of-the-art space station into a luxury casino/hotel as well as a scientific research outpost.
Gargantua-2 is also a nice, shiny target for most of the show’s many villainous characters. This includes The Investors (a group of vampiric lawyers and no, that isn’t a redundancy), The Guild of Calamitous Intent (the world’s largest super-villain team) and The Revenge Society (a scab super-villain group formed of various villains and heroes who have been screwed over by The Guild and The Venture Family in some form or fashion). Heists are planned. Double crosses are triple-crossed. And hilarity ensues.
It is pointless to try and describe the action of the show beyond that. The series’ mythology has become too rich to be so easily quantified. Any laypersons interested in seeing what all the fuss is about would do well to start with Season 1 and work their way forward. Suffice it to say long-time fans of the show will be pleased with the action of this episode and the new status quo heading into Season 6. (Incidentally, you’ll also want to check out the epilogue on the Adult Swim website.)
As always, the voice acting for this series is top notch. Creators Publick and Hammer do the lion’s share of the voice work, with many of the show’s paired characters being voiced by the duo playing off one another. James Urbaniak gets a surprisingly tender scene playing against himself, voicing both Jonas Venture Jr. and Dr. Venture. And there’s also a few notable cameos with John “I’m A PC” Hodgman playing an OSI Communications Officer named Snoopy and Stephen Colbert resuming his role as Professor Incorrigible.
All in all, The Venture Bros. Space Special delivers on its promise to redefine The Venture-verse as we know it in spades. And it does it with a ripping yarn of a story that shakes everything up without breaking it. Season 6 can’t come soon enough!