The premise of this comic is that the Taskmaster is a wanted man. Taskmaster is the man who has trained most of the lackey/henchmen-types, but when word breaks that allegedly Taskmaster has sold out to the man, those lackeys come calling with wanted posters in hand. While that story sets about in the background, the issue opens with Taskmaster confessing to a diner waitress that he really doesn’t remember anything. The bounty was placed on Taskmaster’s noggin by “The Org,” whoever they are. There’s a connection between them and Taskmaster, but due to the affluence of fighting styles and moves in his mind, Taskmaster cannot even remember his own name.
The end result is a three-legged race, with Taskmaster trying to avoid getting killed while trying to figure out who wants him dead. Lingering in the background the whole time is the fact that he doesn’t even know who he is. Van Lente does a great job of setting this all up, and just when it seems that Taskmaster might remain out of costume the whole issue, he dons the familiar mask and cape, picks up the sword and kicks some major ass, trash-talking his foes the whole way through.
Palo’s art seems ill fit to this title at first blush, but as the story goes on the art warms up. By the end of the issue, it feels like a perfect match between Palo and Taskmaster. I enjoyed Palo’s work on “Doctor Voodoo,” so I was surprised to find myself not enjoying it here at first. I think once the costume came out, my concerns were put to rest and I was able to unclench and flat out enjoy the tale. Beaulieu’s colors match Palo’s gritty art, and once the bullets start flying, everything gets dirtier and messier, allowing both artist and colorist to be more enthusiastic with their respective craft. The end result is a gritty story where the protagonist gets his hands dirty and the artist has the skill to show it.
Van Lente and crew did a nice job of showing off Taskmaster’s casual coolness and his fighting capabilities (Palo’s depiction of Taskmaster’s use of borrowed assaults was a nice variation) in this issue, and nearly made the character a sympathetic character in the process. I said nearly, as Van Lente recognizes that part of Taskmaster’s appeal and charm, aside from his cunning and adaptability, is the fact that Taskmaster is in this only for himself.
Marvel has had a way lately of taking a cool concept, character, or brand and driving it into the ground. Taskmaster is a character rife with potential, a villain who fans like to read about, but some of that appeal is what is unknown about this character. Van Lente doesn’t spoil the unknown in this first issue, and I have faith that Taskmaster will maintain some mystique once Van Lente wraps this tale, but I do fear that Marvel might seize upon this and try to position Taskmaster as the next Punisher/Deadpool/Wolverine, jamming the character into more books than he really should be in.
Until that time comes, however, Van Lente and Palo are doing a good job giving us a rip-roaring tale of one man’s search (literally) for himself.