"I love Hitler and Hitler loves me!"
And with that, we're off and running for the first episode of the fourth season of Venture Bros., "Blood of the Father, Heart of Steel." Welcome to the new digs! Tonight, you won't have to wade through my ill-advised and poorly structured comments on the entire Adult Swim line-up. Tonight, and for the rest of the show's run, it's Venture Bros and Venture Bros only. This means many things, but mostly, it means I get to write less, and go to bed at a semi-reasonable hour.
Anyway, the show. Awesome, right? Ever since season two, Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer have become increasingly comfortable with trusting their audience, both in terms of the amount of story they cram into each twenty minute episode, and the way that story is delivered. I'm hard pressed to think of an ep before tonight's that was quite as unstuck-in-time, though; we've had flashbacks, and we've had cross-referencing storylines, but "Blood" at first seems like a bunch of scenes shuffled together with little respect for cause or continuity. That's not true, of course. As it turns out, there's a very specific structure here, hinted at by the occasional CGC Ratings that pop up in the top right of the screen (and weren't really understandable until 21's conversation with Doc Venture near the end). It's the sort of thing that has me already excited to go back and re-watch the whole thing from the start. There wasn't much of the bitter sincerity here, but what "Blood" really gets at, and beautifully well, is the tremendous sense of fun the show generates when it's running on all cylinders. It's like an open toolbox full of the coolest toys anyone has ever seen, arranged for our delight.
The plot, as much as I was able to unpack from just one viewing: Brock makes good on quitting his job as bodyguard at the Venture compound, leaving the boys in the hands of a socially adjusted Sgt. Hatred (who, if you ask me, isn't that adjusted). Brock gets H.E.L.P. eR.'s head stuck in his chest and wakes up at Speculative Human Engineering (S.H.E.D.), a branch of O.S.I.. Brock is so fed up with the group that he ditches them, gets the Heart of Steel removed, and spends some time recuperating with Steve and Steve's sasquatch lover.
Meanwhile, 21 comes to Dr. Venture, wanting him to clone 24. For this, he offers a mint condition Marvel Comics #1 (hence the CGC rating, which appears to be rising over the episode, but is actually dropping; we're just seeing time moving backward from the point where Hank first removed the issue from its mylar sleeve, riiiight up until it's final fate as Sgt. Hatred's toilet paper), but Doc Venture isn't convinced, and 21 storms off. He'll later try and get Dr. Orpheus to resurrect 21, with similarly disappointing results. Other people looking for clones? Nazis, who want to create a clone of Hitler out of a bulldog that currently has Hitler's blood. Dr. Venture refuses, Dean falls in love with the dog, and eventually, the Nazis charge the compound.
Brock has put on weight during all of this, and decides to get revenge on those who wrong him. First stop is Molotov Cocktease's new office building, where he runs in to Hunter, his old boss, and, after getting shot by Molotov, eventually finds his to Hunter's secret lair, where Hunter is working with S.P.H.I.N.X., the sex change being a ruse. Brock signs on, for reasons I'm sure we'll understand later in the season.
Whew. Normally, I'm not planning on going too much into plot with these write-ups, but there's just so much going on here that I had to write it out, if only to get things clear in my own head. The fourth season is being broken up into two chunks of 8 episodes each, with the second chunk airing next spring; if tonight is any indication, it's obvious why Publick and the others felt they needed to give themselves some breathing room to get everything in. I'm not sure they can maintain this furious pace through-out, but I'm giddy to see what they will do. Welcome back, boys! You've been very much missed.
- The occasional title screens we got ("The Human Torch," "The Angel," etc.) were all nods to Marvel Comics #1. There's nothing like watching random references get thrown out, and being able to just trust it will all make sense in the end, is there?
- I harped on his some last season, but I do still wish they had the budget for more secondary voice actors. It was occasionally distracting tonight.
- Doc Venture: "Ahhh! You're getting face on me!"
- Hank: "Is it me, or does every Nazi want to clone Hitlers?"
- Sgt. Hatred: "I am full on Charles in Charge of you!"
- And, of course, Brock: ""I can cross 'Stab Hitler to death' off my list of cool crap I thought I'd never get to do." (I also liked, "Hey, Hank! Killed Hitler.")