TASKMASTER #1/ Script by JED MACKAY/ Art by ALESSANDRO VITTI/ Colors by GURU-EFX/ Letters by VC’S JOE CARAMAGNA/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
Possessing the power of photographic reflexes, Tony Masters is a one-man army. Anything he sees someone else do, he can do as well. He can shoot a bow as well as Hawkeye and perfectly mimic the unarmed combat techniques of Shang-Chi. He can even perform the same acrobatics moves as Spider-Man or drive a motorcycle like Ghost Rider, though he lacks the power to match their speed and agility. This power and his decision to act as a trainer of henchmen rather than seek power for himself have earned Tony Masters the name of Taskmaster.
Despite his flamboyant costume Taskmaster is no common villain who seeks to prove himself against Earth’s mightiest heroes. He’s a mercenary, first and foremost, who sells his talents to the highest bidder. As a result, he’s been employed in a wide variety of jobs by both peacekeeping and criminal organizations alike, acting as a teacher, a trainer, a thief, a bodyguard, a security expert and, on occasion, an assassin.
Today, he is a ringer for a mob boss who needs a partner that can match Bullseye in a golf tournament. At least, that was the plan before somebody framed Taskmaster for murder and someone else showed up to kill him. The good news is that Taskmaster has a notable ally who believes he’s innocent and is willing to help him prove it. The bad news is that an old rival is out for his head and they’re very good at their job of killing people like Taskmaster.
Taskmaster #1 is an odd duck. I’m familiar with the character from Agent X and his appearances in various video games, but his personality in this book is at odds with the dour professional I’ve seen elsewhere. In fact, if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear that Jed MacKay had written this comic as a Deadpool mini-series and that Taskmaster had been substituted for Wade Wilson in order to quickly get a tie-in comic out in time for Taskmaster’s live-action premiere in the long-delayed Black Widow movie.
That being said, Taskmaster is a funny and likeable character in this issue and one whose adventures I’d enjoy reading more of if I weren’t under the impression that he was a serious character who didn’t suffer fools gladly. Here, he’s trash-talking his rivals and cracking wise in his internal monologue like Peter Parker on a sugar rush.
The artwork, thankfully, is nowhere near as conflicted. Alessandro Vitti is a wonderful visual storyteller and the action of this issue flows freely from panel to panel. Vitti is particularly good at drawing facial expressions, even for Taskmaster’s trademark skull mask. The colors by Guru-eFX are suitably vivid, enhancing the artwork perfectly.
While purists may question the main character’s characterization here, Taskmaster #1 remains an enjoyable read. The artwork is solid throughout and the script is funny without sacrificing its high-octane action scene quotient. It is also easily accessible to newcomers.