The whole Taskmaster series is one that really shouldn’t exist. I mean, take a second to step back and look at what exactly this is: Taskmaster is a tie-in to a movie that is so far delayed that by the time the comic finished the movie hadn’t even come out. It relies, as its basic conceit, on a era of comics that finished over a decade ago – and don’t get me wrong, I love Dark Reign, but it does not often seem that Marvel Comics does. It pretty specifically brings up Battle Scars, the comic that was all about retconning the Samuel L. Jackson Nick Fury into being a major part of the Marvel universe. Taskmaster is picking at the seams of the Marvel Universe.
And Jed MacKay knows that he’s doing that, too.
Because that’s what Taskmaster is about. It’s about strings, and the seams in a story. Maria Hill wasn’t actually dead, but I think that we all knew that. Even outside the fact that if they actually killed Maria Hill, it would be on the front page of Bleeding Cool two weeks beforehand, Maria Hill is a spy. Deception is her whole deal.
That’s what Taskmaster does, too. He’s not Captain America, Iron Fist, Shang-Chi, or Hawkeye, or anyone else that he copies. If you go by Fred Van Lente’s old Taskmaster series, years ago, Taskmaster doesn’t even know who he is. All he does is deceive, so a Taskmaster story is about deception. In hindsight, it seems obvious.
Taskmaster, as a series, was basically a fetch quest. Find three people, stand by them for a little bit, and come back to the base for the quest reward – in this case, the key to Norman Osborn’s doomsday device. Which, hey, good for Norman. Who doesn’t want a doomsday device?
It’s at the end where that deception kicks in. Maria was alive, and Maria needs Taskmaster to blow up the evil doomsday device. And Taskmaster – after four issues telling us about him, showing us this secret heart of gold that he had all along, that he’s not that bad a bad guy – well, he turns the doomsday device on. Sixty second countdown.
Oh, and I know that the world will be saved. Even Taskmaster knows that. The text of the comic makes that explicit. But it’s also noticeable that the comic cuts away before the doomsday device is ever actually turned off. It’s almost as if MacKay is teasing us – oh, the world might, just might, actually be destroyed. Maybe. Who knows?
Alessandro Viti is a good fit for the series, too. His art is very line-heavy, calling to mind Leinil Francis Yu. But Taskmaster’s most trademark attribute is his big skull hat, a piece of character design that benefits from being detailed, seeing the different little fake teeth and the little glimmer in the eyes. It unfortunately doesn’t translate that well to actual faces, which end up – much like Yu’s faces – looking almost alien.
But for Taskmaster, for this specific comic, the MacKay-Viti combination is very well done. I almost wish that this wasn’t an ongoing, but for what it is, it works really well.
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