Royal Nonesuch writes up a review of the new TASKMASTER #1, published by Marvel Comics!
Credits & Solicit Info:
STORY BY Fred Van Lente
ART BY Jefte Palo
COVER BY Alex Garner
PUBLISHER Marvel Comics
COVER PRICE: $3.99
RELEASE DATE Wed, September 1st, 2010
The fan-favorite anti-hero from AVENGERS: INITIATIVE explodes into his own mini-series! Taskmaster has trained hench-thugs for every terrorist organization and criminal cartel in the Marvel Universe. So when the rumor starts that he's turned traitor and now works for STEVE ROGERS, a billion-dollar bounty is put on his head, and every cadre of costumed fanatics -- A.I.M., Hydra, Ultimatum, the Sons of the Serpent, everyone -- looks to collect. Now Taskmaster has to fight hordes upon hordes of his psychopathic students while at the same time figuring out who framed him -- which requires him figuring out who he really is! That's right, the man with the photographic reflexes has no memory of his true identity -- and you'll learn the unexpected truth along with him! The action-packed SECRET ORIGIN of Taskmaster begins here, courtesy of New York Times bestselling writer Fred Van Lente (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, INCREDIBLE HERCULES, MARVEL ZOMBIES) and acclaimed artist Jefte Paolo (DOCTOR VOODOO)!
Memory is a tricky thing. It can be at once unpleasant, deeply treasured, terribly traumatic, or even unreliable. It's probably toughest when memories are inaccessible, or don't exist at all. That's where Marvel's new TASKMASTER #1 starts.
Taskmaster has had a solid if largely undistinguished history in the Marvel Universe. He would show up from time to time as a B-list villain with a unique hook (a mercenary who can imitate anyone's moves, and who uses his ill-gotten gains to open up schools to teach other supervillains and henchmen), but never really occupied a major presence. He had been handled pretty well for the last decade or so, when he starred in a 2002 limited series (in which he debuted a new costume) and joined the supporting cast of DEADPOOL and its spinoff, AGENT X. He showed up again as a teacher of up and coming heroes in AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE, but has probably enjoyed his highest profile yet as a reluctant member of Norman Osborne's Cabal.
Writer Fred Van Lente uses the great conceit that Taskmaster's photoreflexive abilites have made him forget who he used to be. He's memorized so many fighting moves that the memories of his life were actually overwritten by them. Now that he's on the run from the villain community, Taskmaster wants to get his life back and figure out just who he is. We as readers will apparently find out his origin along with him.
The issue opens with Taskmaster returning to the site of his earliest memory: eating chicken souvlaki and listening to the Beach Boys in a remote diner. Van Lente lays out the goals of this story early on with some good dialogue, apparently referencing Christopher Nolans 2000 film Memento in the process ("Got a condition."). After that, the plot kicks in, where Tasky is attacked by a whole slew of mercenary groups out to collect a billion dollar bounty. Also included in all the chaos is that old standby: the "innocent bystander/potential love interest" component. It feels a little shoehorned in, but whether the story truly needs it or not should play out over the rest of the four-issue limited series (though it does make one wonder whatever happened to Taskmaster's previous flame, Sandi Brandenberg. Apparently, it didn't work out).
Van Lente's grim story is matched well with Jefté Palo's gritty pencils. The storytelling is effortlessly strong, and visualizes the story's tone perfectly. Taskmaster's world is appropriately dirty and dank (the Ambrosia Diner has to be the least comfortable eatery in the Marvel Universe – it appears to be a fairly open space made of grungy, unpainted concrete). In one great sequence, Palo and colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu combine to use grapical overlays to depict exactly whose skill set Taskmaster is utilizing to fight a diner full of mercenary gangs. The issue is full of great flourishes like that, and the story works so well because of it.
TASKMASTER #1 is a solid, tightly-plotted comic book script captured with gusto by very good artwork. In addition to the plot, the dialogue and characters shine. The script happens to incorporate a well-realized approach to its ideas with Van Lente's trademark sense of humor and handle for action scenes. This story has a great premise, and this first issue is told in a fun, compelling way.
Review by: Royal Nonesuch