24th Nov2020

‘Taskmaster #1’ Review (Marvel Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Jed Mackay | Art by Alessandro Vitti | Published by Marvel Comics

I’ve always been partial to a bit of Taskmaster. I was lucky enough to buy the comic in person from a newsagent which had his first appearance in way back in 1980 (Avengers #195 for those keeping count). It was part of my after school ritual, to see what new comics had appeared, and this new villain really stood out. The cover to the following issue, which I counted down the days to buy, featured no Avengers at all, which never happened, just this menacing, imposing figure in a costume that I still love today. Designed by George Perez, why wouldn’t you? Taskmaster was sort of Marvel’s Deathstroke before Deathstroke, a villain with the ability to take an opponent’s power and use it against them. Taskmaster had what was called ‘photographic reflexes’, he could copy your abilities and take you down. Since then he’s drifted about the Marvel Universe, guest spots here, limited series there.

Which brings us to this book, a fresh take from writer Jed MacKay and Alessandro Vitti. The book plays with you from the start. We open with the apparent murder of Maria Hill, and a first person narration you are led to believe is Taskmaster. Did he do it? This looks like being grim and gritty stuff. Then we switch to a Maggia celebrity golf tournament for Maggia widows and orphans, where mobsters pair up with supervillains for golf doubles. Taskmaster is up against Bullseye, and the banter is priceless. So it’s going to be a light hearted take then? Er, no, as a sniper takes out Taskmaster’s golfing partner with a headshot, and keeps shooting. Who’s the target? The Mob, Taskmaster, or Bullseye? Short straw time for Bullseye. He takes off as any self respecting villain would, in a golf cart.

One of the assassins though can’t be shaken. Taskmaster uses his best moves, including a Hawkeye bows and arrows number, and barely escapes alive. He receives a mysterious call telling him to make his way to an access road for help. Turns out to be a certain Nick Fury Jr. Just what is going on? Turns out Maria Hill has been murdered (or so Fury is saying) and the intelligence community think Taskmaster did it, as his shield was left at the scene. Fury knows it’s a frame up, but everyone else believes it. Turns out that master assassin who nearly got him back at the golf course was Black Widow herself. Well that’s not good. Fury offers to help, or more like a mutual ‘you rub my back’ situation.

Maria Hill was apparently investigating something called Rubicon Trigger, from old H.A.M.M.E.R files. To get full access to the files, Fury needs the biometrics of three top spymasters from three countries. He needs Taskmaster’s ability to mimic people. He can do it, but only if he sees them in person and up close. No problem. Except each of them is surrounded by more security and protection than anyone outside a President. Big problem. Still, it’s this or endless assassination attempts. This it is.

A great first issue that had pace and constant motion aplenty. As the reader, you really felt pulled along by the story, the speed of it all was unrelenting. It had the feel of the Winter Soldier movie, with the espionage background and characters, which is no small thing. It is of course a classic plot, the innocent man on the run in a race against time to clear his name, but Taskmaster is no innocent man and has no name to clear, just a reputation to try and restore. The added bonus of the great dialogue and humour from MacKay really pushes this up a level too. Genuinely great zingers in there. The art by Vitti was actually not as gritty as I was expecting but that’s no bad thing. Still solid and entertaining, and does a great job with the layouts of keeping up that impression of motion. He draws Taskmaster really well too.

To reverse Harvey Dent’s comment in The Dark Knight Returns: ‘You either die a villain or you live long enough to see yourself become the hero’. Taskmaster’s world just got a whole lot more complicated.

Great stuff.

****½  4.5/5


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