The Venture Bros. has always been a story about failure. While creators Christopher McCulloch (aka Jackson Publick) and Doc Hammer originally conceived the adult animated comedy as an explicit parody of the sci-fi pulp adventures of Doc Savage and Jonny Quest, they slowly but surely evolved beyond that premise, turning Venture Bros. into the one of the most conceptually ambitious series that’s ever aired on Adult Swim’s nightly programming block. It’s a satire of a generation of men trapped by nostalgia and doomed to fail because of it, but nonetheless growing and maturing in spite of those failures.
It’s only fitting, then, that Radiant Is the Blood of the Baboon Heart, the feature-length movie that serves as a Venture Bros. finale, emerged from the series’ premature cancellation — and that it still delivers one of the show’s finest adventures to date.
The film picks up approximately one week after the cliffhanger ending of the show’s seventh season, with Hank Venture (McCulloch) still missing after discovering his brother Dean (Michael Sinterniklaas) in bed with Hank’s girlfriend, Sirena (Cristin Milioti). With Dr. Venture (James Urbaniak) distracted by the impending product launch of his latest make-or-break invention, Dean enlists the aid of Dr. Byron Orpheus (Steven Rattazzi) and the Order of the Triad in tracking Hank down. Meanwhile, the Guild of Calamitous Intent and the OSI are forced to team up to investigate a dangerous new organization led by a mysterious villain with close ties to The Monarch (also McCulloch), Dr. Venture’s longtime nemesis.
As you can likely guess, Radiant Is the Blood of the Baboon Heart isn’t an ideal entry point for viewers who are new to the series’ super-science shenanigans. The movie draws on the whole of the show’s 20-year run to craft a story that simultaneously feels like a heartfelt farewell to one of the most idiosyncratic animated series to air on television, and like just another day in the lives of the Venture family.
Half the fun of watching Radiant Is the Blood of the Baboon Heart, or The Venture Bros. series, is meeting the surprises it offers as they come, and picking out the bizarre Easter eggs laden in the dialogue and background of every shot. I won’t rattle off a checklist of my favorite moments from the film for fear of spoiling any of those surprises, but I will say that if you count yourself a fan of a certain brick-throwing, amphibian-themed villain, or a curmudgeonly old codger who first appeared in the Halloween special of season 5, you’re going to be very pleased.
In reconciling the cliffhanger at the end of season 7, The Venture Bros.: Radiant Is the Blood of the Baboon Heart organically closes the loop on several long-standing mysteries at the heart of the original series, including the identity of Hank and Dean’s mother and the supposed familial connection between Dr. Venture and The Monarch. The former has long been teased as far back as the series’ second season as a secret on par with that of the revelation that Hank and Dean have been repeatedly cloned.
When the reveal finally comes, it’s a moment so poignant, touching, and shockingly bizarre that it all but demands an entire rewatch of the series in order to fully understand its implications. Same goes for the answer about The Monarch and Dr. Venture’s relationship, a reveal that sheds light on the origin behind the former’s animus and drives at something deeper than either man fully comprehends.
The finale leaves the door open to the possibility of future adventures for this family — none have been greenlit, but in this age of infinite revivals and infinite nostalgia, anything is possible. If this movie is well and truly a wrap for The Venture Bros., though, Radiant Is the Blood of the Baboon Heart could not be any more worthy or fitting of a farewell to one the greatest animated comedies to air on television. It’s not goodbye; it’s only see you later, Team Venture.