Happy Fred Van Lente Day, folks! Today, let's take a look at the recently finished Taskmaster mini-series by writer Fred Van Lente and artist Jefte Palo!
Taskmaster is a really intriguing character, and in this new mini-series, Fred Van Lente tries to address one of the more intriguing aspects of the character. You see, Taskmaster has a really cool power (he can view someone for a little bit and then do whatever they do, like he can shoot a bow like Hawkeye or do martial arts like Shang Chi, etc.) as well as a neat visual (skull mask with cloak and cape). Therefore, lots of different writers want to use him, and because they do, quite often he gets used as a good guy (well, at least not a BAD guy) but then the next writer will want to use him as a bad guy and so on and so forth.
So Van Lente addresses this in this series by revealing that Taskmaster loses his memory every so often (a side effect of learning all the abilities of other people) and when he does, he's basically a blank slate.
In issue #1, we see Taskmaster dealing with this memory loss at the same time he discovers that a bounty has been placed on his head, and pretty much every hired gun is out to get him.
Jefte Palo has quite a dynamic style that goes beautifully with Van Lente's action-packed story.
As the series go by, Van Lente and Palo introduce us to a series of outlandish characters while we learn more and more about Taskmaster's past. The standout characters are #2's Don of the Dead and #3's town of Hitlers (which actually has its basis in a classic Lee and Kirby Fantastic Four storyline).
Throughout it all, a waitress has been sucked into Taskmaster's world and become a target of the mysterious "Org" (the organization that hires out paid killers) and their relationship is probably the best part of the book (and, this being Van Lente, there are some hidden twists coming).
The main villains in the book are a group of former henchmen that want to take over for the Org, including their leader who is named (wait for it) the Red Shirt.
This series is an absolute blast - tons of action, lots of clever jokes and good character bits. It also leaves Taskmaster in such a great spot for future writers (whether it is Van Lente choosing to pick up the character again or whoever the next writer who uses him next) that it serves the rare distinction of a fun, enjoyable series that also works as a continuity "fixer."
Taskmaster - More Fun Than a Barrel-full of Cyber Ninjas!