For someone whose whole gimmick is copying others, Taskmaster still has a winning personality of his own that's unique among Marvel's many other villains and those who dwell in moral ambiguity. If you didn't feel strongly about him before, Taskmaster #1 may very well change your perspective and win you over. Expressive, humorous and skilled as ever, it already feels difficult to resume viewing Taskmaster any other way than how he's portrayed in the debut of his new miniseries.
After a disarming opening sets an ominous tone, Taskmaster #1 abruptly shifts the mood so that you're not quite sure how or if the first two scenes are connected. Taskmaster on the golf course shelling out his sought-after talents for a quick buck and whatever other perks he can get is a pitiful sight, but he takes it in stride with humor and confidence. Taskmaster's always been a mercenary, but it's evident here he's more of a freelancer than readers ever realized and will even take on the most menial of jobs with surprising degrees of dedication and preparation.
It's this kind of humorous set up by writer Jed Mackay—established in bragging about out-costuming Red Skull and mocking fellow troublemaker Bullseye—that establishes what readers can expect from the character. Taskmaster is seriously funny in Taskmaster #1, but not in a belly laugh sort of way. His retorts are as fast as his moves, and things like imagining himself as Ghost Rider and setting his ringtone to Dolly Parton tracks do wonders to speak for the character without requiring him to talk too much.
It's not just his quickly understated quips that sell the character—any hero or villain can discover that with the right context and creative chemistry. Artist Alessandro Vitti alongside colorist Guru Efx were tasked with the task of making a skull—the canvas for showing human emotions stripped of nearly every feature that'd facilitate emotion-making—an expressive character, instead of a literal talking head. This artistic collaboration is able to morph Taskmaster's gaunt face into tangible feelings of indifference, bravado, and bug-eyed fear in a fashion that makes his reactions feel much more believable than those of characters with much more to work with.
Beneath his bony face and pointed humor, Taskmaster is still a hardened mercenary, and even though his debut is a brief one, it's packed with the perfect balance of action and backstory to stop this from becoming a Taskmaster stand-up routine. Though he's mostly on the run, excessive muzzle flashes, constant blurs of motion, and dramatic flares of light highlight Taskmaster's prowess and versatility without showing his whole hand too early.
It's also worth appreciating how succinctly this debut issue establishes its story and gets things moving in a straightforward and very engaging narrative. By the end of Taskmaster #1, readers clearly see the central problem, the reasons to care about this character, the stakes, and the path forward.
Sure, the "I've been framed" setup of this story and Taskmaster's multi-target tasks ahead of him may seem a bit formulaic, but for a mercenary, it couldn't be more fitting. Taskmaster #1 gets right to the point, and by the time it does, you'll already be looking to find what happens next.
Published by Marvel Comics
On November 11, 2020
Written by Jed Mackay
Art by Alessandro Vitti
Colors by Guru Efx
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Valerio Giangiordano and Arif Prianto