Tuesday, May 10, 2005

THE AVENGERS #196 Marvel Comics, 1980

Taskmaster kicks ass.

I should just leave it at that and have that be my post in entirety: Taskmaster kicks ass.

Taskmaster is an Avengers villain who first appeared in The Avengers #195, way back in the day. Taskmaster (damn, I keep on typing “Taskhamster!”) has a unique super-power: he has photographic reflexes which enable him to mimic any physical ability that he witnesses. If Taskmaster watches say, Night Thrasher from the New Warriors getting rad on his skateboard, Taskmaster would then be able to get rad on his skateboard with equal skill. He carries a number of different weapons, like replicas of Captain America’s shield, Daredevil’s billyclub, and Hawkeye’s bow and trick arrows, which he uses to great effect. Put simply, Taskhamster kicks ass.

Here’s the man himself explaining his powers:

The thing I like about The Taskmaster is his pragmatism. He decides there’s no money in being a regular super villain, so he decides to use his unique talents in more creative ways. “[…] I learned me something else: that while bein’ a super villain could be real lucrative, it could as get to be real painful!” says Taskmaster in this issue. “I decided that it’d be safer to set up a string of academies, schools where I could train crooks an’ social misfits t’be goons for the frontline baddies. An’ for years my operation ran smooth an’ secret…”

…until you meddling kids and that blasted dog came along!

And no, I have no idea why he talks like that. I think it’s supposed to make him a sort of “working class” figure or something.

This issue of Avengers was written by David Micheline with solid super hero art by George Perez and Jack Abel. This is the second of two-parts, in which The Wasp, Yellowjacket, and Ant-Man are all captured by Taskmaster while investigating strange goings on at a sanitarium. It seems that one of Taskmaster’s criminal scientists has a heart problem, so he uses comic book technology to clone himself, with the intention of stealing the clone’s heart. The clone escapes, alerts The Avengers, chaos ensues.

You know, I should probably do a whole post on this, but what’s the deal with the shrinking heroes? It’s such a lame power to begin with that if I were chairman of The Avengers I would get smart like the JLA and limit the team to one shrinking hero at a time. Really, shrinking heroes are like that annoying friend that you have that you’re constantly making excuses for, but you don’t want to dump the poor chump because you’ve been friends for so long. They’re like that. “You know, The Wasp is hilarious, and she throws really great parties. Plus, she helps the team out a lot. Well, sometimes. When she’s not getting captured. She’s been on the team like, forever, and she doesn’t take up much room…”

I digress. The Avengers dope out what’s going on and bust into Taskmaster’s secret base, where they do battle with Taskmaster’s “Cyber-Squad X,” a bunch of disposable goons who exist only to get their heads kicked in by our heroes.

Here’s a pulsatin’ panel of Marvel mayhem:

Wait a second, check out the Cyber-Squad X guy at the bottom of the panel! The Vision is blasting him with eye beams, apparently burning his face pretty badly. “M-my face!” he screams. That’s pretty cold. Everybody else on Cyber-Squad X gets pummeled into unconsciousness, but this poor bastard gets his face melted.

And look, Ms. Marvel (not Warbird, thank you) is yelling "Hala!" as she punches some goon. I never understood that, either. That's like you or me getting in a fight and shouting "Earth!" as we hit somebody. Whatever.

Anyway, The Avengers beat the living bejeezus out of Cyber-Squad X, then turn their attention to our villain, who does exactly what I would do if I were him: he runs away! Ahh, Taskmaster, ever the pragmatist. Unlike most villains, Taskmaster knows when to hold ‘em, knows when to fold ‘em, knows when to walk away, knows when to run…


jason @ RIOT said...

best. villain. EVER.

Shane Bailey said...

Better than Aquabeast?

I actually own this issue. The Taskmaster miniseries a while back was pretty fun as well. I still like his original costume better than the updated one they had in that series though.

David Campbell said...

I never read that one, I'll have to check it out. I remember not liking the goalie mask thing they did with his costume. He looked like Jason.

Joe Casey said...

George Perez... not Bob Layton.

Great goddamn issue, though.

Dan Coyle said...

Gail Simone did a good job giving depth to "Taskie" in Deadpool and Agent X.

David Campbell said...

Joe: Crap! Perez, of course. I'm changing that.

Dan: I believe you, because Gail is a swell writer. Haven't read Agent X, which seems well regarded.

G. Bob said...

Taskmaster is one of my favorite villians despite the fact that I never read a single comic he appeared in. Really. I read about him as a kid in the Marvel encyclopedia, and something about the character and his story grabbed me. I dunno if it was the costume or the background, but I wanted to see him in action.

At this point I would never read a comic with Tasky in it. I have a feeling he wouldn't even be a quarter as cool as a ten year old boy pictured him.

Mike Loughlin said...

"She's been on the team, like, forever, and she doesn't take up much room..."

Best justification for the Wasp I've ever read. Possibly the _only_ justification, but still the best.

Shrinky heroes are just lame (with the notable exception of the Atom- he shot Darkseid in the brain!). The Avengers are diminished (no pun intended) for having more shrinky heroes than any other team. If they hired a certain midget acrobat, however...

"Avengers Assemble! Iron Man, stop the Doombot brigade! Thor, take out the 6,000 anonymous henchmen! Hawkeye, make that impossible trick shot to hit the Doomsday weapon's off switch! Puck, use your bouncy jumps and go KICK DR. DOOM'S ASS!"

Anonymous said...

Actually, Taskmaster isn't that bright- if I had photographic reflexes and all that physical talent, I'd get myself to a whole lot of NBA games and spend my evenings watching Michael Jordan playoff tapes. Then all you have to do is get signed to a big fat contract and enjoy the groupies- you wouldn't even have to break the law!

At least he's a bit more sensible than the other villains.

Anonymous said...

The Taskmaster must be a highly successful criminal if he has enough money to hire out the cover of The Avengers as a singles ad:

"He's looking for men who like to kill!"

Should have used a better picture, though. It looks like he's putting his leg right through the bow. Reflexes of Hawkeye, brains of a walnut.


gorjus said...

Like G.Bob, I'm not sure I ever actually got to read a Taskhamster comic, but I fell hard for him via the Marvel Universe. For years, every crap character I "created" as a pre-teen had a hood-cape and "photographic relflexes."

Brad Curran said...

I'll put in another vote for Gail's work with the character in Deadpool/Agent-X. Too bad no one seems to have done anything with him since (unless he's shown up in Thunderbolts or something when I wasn't paying attention).

Solario said...

Not to mention Joe Kelly's previous tackling of him in Deadpool. I have to admit I love Deadpool for the way he defeated Tasky, seriously only Deadpool could beat him by breaking into dance.

NiolK said...

Ms. Marvel(begrudgingly humouring your weird name fetish) is actually shouting "HOLLA!" cause she whats props for that viscious uppercut. It's a type-o.

L1701E said...

Actually, Ms. Marvel is invoking the name of the Kree sun god. It's traditional among Kree warriors. Thanks to a device, she's half-human half-Kree.

I'm a geek. :P

Sinister said...

But we don't yell "GOD!" when you punch someone!

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