02 November 2009

Holy sunshine! A Venture Brothers review

Rusty Venture: How do you lose a Hank?
The Monarch: Same way you just lost 10 million dollars, genius!

For once, I'm on time with a post, which means I'm reviewing a Venture Bros. episode 7-1/2 days after its first airing.

"Handsome Ransom," the second episode of Season 4, takes The Venture Bros. back to territory it first visited last year in "Home is Where the Hatred Is."  In that episode's coda, noted pedophile Sgt. Hatred unsuccessfully tried to lure the Venture twins into his hot tub.  This time, it's Hank alone (shown above with Captain Sunshine) who becomes the object of a large man's affection.

If that last sentence frightens you, well, that's the point of "Handsome Ransom."  We see lots of hints that Hank is about to suffer sexual abuse -- and all of them lead to other places entirely.  Like "Blood of the Father, Heart of Steel," this episode plays mainly to its already established audience, which has already dealt with Sgt. Hatred's unsavory obsessions.  Here, for that reason, I spent most of the episode worrying about Hank's well being at the hands of the differently twisted Captain Sunshine.  The good news is that my worries eventually turned into one long rollercoaster ride.

In "Handsome Ransom," The Monarch has yet another scheme against Doc Venture -- this time, kidnapping the twins for a $10,000,000 ransom -- interrupted an angry Captain Sunshine (voiced by Kevin Conroy).  Sunshine crashes into The Monarch's flying lair, beats him up, has him arrested (for no good legal reason) and flies off with Hank.  Years earlier, The Monarch had slain Sunshine's beloved ward, Wonderboy.  Hank's resemblance to the fallen sidekick inspires Sunshine to take him to his home, the Neverland-like Sanctum Solarium, try to turn him into the new Wonderboy.

As a thinly veiled amalgam of Batman and Superman, Captain Sunshine is unsettling enough, but the creepiness doesn't stop at his appearance or his home.  First, there's Sunshine's outfit, which, in modern symbolic language, is literally gay.  Then, Sunshine gives Hank a makeover.  Then, when Sunshine's butler hands Hanks a tube of jelly, we fear the worst.  After the break, though, it turns out that the jelly merely helps Hank fit into a Wonderboy outfit.  (The Monarch's later attempt to make the same trip provides a funny counterpoint.)

In fact, everything about Captain Sunshine that might suggest a threat to Hank turns out, instead, to be a manifestation of Sunshine's attempt to replace the late Wonderboy.  The true nature of the relationship between Sunshine and Wonderboy never comes to (ahem) light; we're permitted to know only that Sunshine really, really misses him.

Actually, that's not very far from the actual Batman, or his relationships with the various Robins.

It's a scary ride, worrying about Hank, but once his father rescues him, the episode becomes much easier to enjoy in retrospect.  That's a good thing, because "Handsome Ransom" is packed with hilarious gags, not all of which are shots at Batman or Superman.  Also, returning along with The Monarch and the buffed-up 21 are some other VB favorites.  Dr. Mrs. The Monarch proves the validity of her title, while Peter White and a rebuilt Billy Quizboy try to help their old friend Doc Venture.

Finally, I should mention that the action here takes place after the death of Hitler the dog.  That means that 9-12 months have passed since Henchman 24's death, with the lower figure still the "official" estimate.

Score:  94/100.  I am liking this episode more as time passes.  But please, enough with the pedophilia.

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