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You need to watch the best superhero parody on HBO Max ASAP

“I didn’t think necromancers believed in Christmas.”

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In September 2020, The Venture Bros. creator Jackson Publick announced on Twitter that the show was ending after 17 years.

If you didn’t realize The Venture Bros. was even on the air for that long, it’s probably because it only had seven seasons spread out across nearly two decades.

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Publick and producer Doc Hammer write, direct, and voice characters in every episode, which explains the show’s extended production schedule.

In fact, they were still writing season eight when news of the cancellation broke, two years after season seven aired.

That might make Venture Bros. sound like kind of a disaster, but the obsessive hands-on approach made it one of the most consistently funny shows on TV, with a well of lore deep enough to rival Marvel.

The show follows Dr. Rusty Venture (son of famous adventurer Jonas Venture), his two socially stunted sons, and their terrifyingly efficient bodyguard, Brock Samson.

From its simple start, the show introduces a supervillain guild led by David Bowie, the Doctor Strange knock-off Doctor Orpheus, and later plot points that make those first two sound totally normal.

There was hardly a hint of what The Venture Bros. would become when its pilot premiered in 2003. Like Sealab 2021, it looked like a simple parody of Jonny Quest and other older adventure cartoons.

Even into its final season, Venture Bros. still had plenty of superhero parodies and dick jokes, but they were backed up by the weight of a ludicrously dense continuity.

That makes the show hard to hop into for random episodes, but extremely worth binging the whole series.

Adult animation today is full of cartoon characters dissatisfied with and broken by real life. Venture Bros. just did it earlier, and arguably better.

Venture Bros. goes to some dark places — abandonment, drug abuse, and so much murder, to start with — but the show itself never really feels dark.

The Venture Bros. pulls off the magic trick of having a weighty plot without feeling grim by making its characters dead-serious and the situations they’re stuck in ridiculous.

Partly because there was no one else to rein them in, Publick and Hammer take some wild swings with later seasons of The Venture Bros. One-off gags turn into crucial plots points and characters reinvent themselves on a moment’s notice.

The lightness of early seasons makes later stakes feel higher, and recognizing jokes that spin out into multi-episode arcs feels like knowing the show’s secret handshake.

If there’s anything to be disappointed with in The Venture Bros., it’s that it stopped too soon. Season seven finishes with one character leaving, which Hammer told NPR was never how the show was supposed to end.

Fortunately, fans will have a chance to see how things were supposed to go. Adult Swim and HBO Max are currently working on a Venture Bros. movie finale.

While you wait, you can catch the full series of The Venture Bros. on HBO Max, as of August 13.

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