We interrupt your regularly scheduled -J. & Steph Talk About Comics for this important public service announcement:
Season 6 of the Venture Bros. starts this Sunday.
[Steph: It is very important. Interrupt away!]
Oh, okay, then. Let’s get a subhead in here and get this started.
All This and New York City, Too
It seems like only yesterday that Alex and I chatted about the new fifth season of the Venture Bros. for the Recorder. “Yesterday” could also be 20 months ago — time becomes dilated and loses meaning in the years between new Venture seasons. Regardless of when we last gathered to gab about Team Venture, the new season descends this weekend, and it takes the series in directions unexpected and unexplored.
You can thank last year’s between-season special, “All This and Gargantua-2.” That hour-long episode did its best to send a lot of long-standing notions of the Venture Bros. hurtling towards Earth like the Mir.
Thus, while the last Venture Bros. preview on this site was reflecting upon the history of the series, I wanted to look forward this time around. The events of “Gargantua-2,” necessitates gazing into the future — everything we knew has changed. Speaking of which…
Here There Be Spoilers
I doubt that a spoiler warning is necessary, but one never knows. I’m not sure what the Internet-approved window of time is for spoilers, but Venture Bros. would seem to not need them between seasons. I mean, you’ve had over a decade to catch up on five seasons, and twelve months to watch a single between-season special. Anyway, consider yourself warned.
When the World (or Space Station) Comes Crashing Down
Amongst the things I love about Venture Bros. is the character development and the willingness to shatter the status quo. The show could’ve coasted on the Jonny-Quest-parody formula. Coattail-riding Dr. Rusty Venture, agent/bodyguard Brock Samson, and the socially-awkward twin boy adventurers Hank and Dean Venture. Whenever the boys would get a little too curious and a lot too dead, Rusty and Brock would crack open a spare set of clones. Voilà — the boys were as good as new, and the show could return to its episodic resting point.
The show never used this device outside the Season 2 opening, but once introduced, that option was always in the background. The titular Venture brothers couldn’t grow as characters while the reset switch was always a possibility. That’s why, at the conclusion of Season 3, the clones all died in gory, wet pinkness. (Well, almost all of them did.)
The series is at a similar cusp as Season 6 begins. The world of Venture has experienced some serious changes. Count ‘em:
JJ is dead. The Investors are dead. The Council of Thirteen is mostly dead. The old Sovereign is likely dead. Zero is truly dead this time. (Not sure that last one belongs on this list, but he did get a very satisfying death scene on Gargantua-2.)
What else? Gargantua-2 is destroyed, as is the Venture compound. Rusty suddenly finds himself in charge of a vibrant business headquartered in New York City. The Guild of Calamitous Intent was destroyed, but a new incarnation seems to rise from its ashes — with Dr. Mrs. The Monarch as the new Sovereign. The Monarch is more connected to his archenemy than he ever realized, and the last tendril of that connection might be the missing council member, Vendata.
A lot of shit has changed, and changed dramatically.
Fail to Dream, Dream to Fail
It’s not just the world that has advanced since we last visited Team Venture. The core concepts are about to be challenged. One of the central tenets of the show has been how it looked unflinchingly at failure. The failure of Dr. Venture to fill his father’s shoes, the failure of the boys to acclimate either to general society or into adulthood, the failure of the Monarch to progress past two-bit arching of a failed super-scientist, the failure of Dr. Mrs. Monarch to advance in accordance with her skill, the failure of Gary/Henchman 21 to create a new life.
Season 6 asks us: what happens when perennial failures are suddenly handed (or finally earn) success?
Season 5 toyed with this question in a number of ways. Dean and Hank acquit themselves as competent men in the first couple episodes. Dr. Mrs. The Monarch develops into the Guild’s most formidable Council member. Henchman 21 is able to overthrow the damn Moppets.
But theme of success in Season 5 often came with a cost, most prominently in the form of The Investors. This evil trio offered Faustian bargains to many players in the Venture world, most of whom were already successful. As happens with such bargains, the men making the deals often lose everything in the end, sometimes causing collateral damage. Monstroso’s extended life seems to come to another end. The Sovereign’s debt to The Investors causes the Guild’s demise. Even JJ, the supposed goody-good restorer of the Venture reputation, made a deal with them — one that he would only live long enough to see explode in nuclear fire.
Strangers in a Strange Land
Interestingly, Rusty was given a similar opportunity by the Dr. Killinger — a brother to The Investors. Back in “The Doctor is Sin,” Killinger turned Venture Industries into a successful super-science outfit. All Rusty had to do was become a super-villain, and his life of failure would be over. But Rusty declines, shaken and returning to the life of barely scraping by.
But now, as a result of JJ’s actions, Rusty inherits a flourishing company with fat cash and a modern headquarters in America’s biggest city. Season 6 sees the Ventures with everything they could want, in theory. Will success spoil Team Venture?
Even more interesting is the other side of the coin, with the newly-promoted Dr. Mrs. The Monarch. Her partnership with The Monarch has honed her considerable skills, and we know that she starts Season 6 as the new Sovereign of the Guild of Calamitous Intent. It makes sense — she has become a force that few can stand against. But where she once fought to become the Monarch’s equal, and fought by his side as a partner, she is now his boss.
There is an inequality that will likely test their partnership — and the teaser material has already hinted that her role as the Sovereign may come at a cost. Will her sacrifices for the Guild come at the expense of her role as Dr. Mrs. The Monarch?
We’ve only got eight episodes to find out, starting with the first this Sunday, January 31st.