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The Initiative: Taskmaster's Choice

Marvel's most pragmatic super villain considers going big time and joining the Cabal

AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #31 preview art by Rafa Sandoval
By Tim Stevens

Anyone with a job can tell you that promotions can be very good or very bad. Some get you more money, more prestige, and more power. Some just net you a lot more work and a greater share of the blame when things go awry. For Taskmaster, an invitation from Norman Osborn to join the Cabal could go either way, except with far higher stakes. On December 23 in AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #31 from writer Christos Gage and artist Rafa Sandoval, Tasky will have to decide if the reward is worth the risk.

For many of Taskmaster's ilk, the choice would be an obvious one: the average super villain sees a chance to acquire more power in a more prominent role to be a no-brainer. For Taskmaster though, the decision does not come so easily.

"One thing that sets Taskmaster apart from other villains, that I've always liked about him, is that he has common sense," Gage points out. "If the odds are against him, he runs.  He's out to get rich, not to conquer the world or prove he's smarter than Reed Richards. And he knows that joining the Cabal would be a whole new ball game for him.  It's not a decision he takes lightly."

AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #31 preview art by Rafa Sandoval
THE INITIATIVE #31 gives fans a unique chance to see how Taskmaster evaluates the opportunity and what motives and ambitions might be tickled by the invitation.

"Yes, there is an increase in power, money and influence, and that's a strong lure," admits the writer. "But Taskmaster, for all his talents, has never been one of the movers and shakers of the super villain world.  He's more likely to be found working for someone else.  Now he has the chance to rub shoulders with the elite, to make the rules everyone else has to play by. Who wouldn't be tempted by that?"

Of course, there remains one important factor that Taskmaster can ill-afford to discount: the man that has invited him to the big table.

"There's the question of whether it's even an option to say 'no' to Norman Osborn," Gage notes.

In the wake of twin betrayals by Namor and Emma Frost, Osborn finds himself more desperate than ever to control his Cabal and Taskmaster represents his attempt to reassert that influence.

"Norman Osborn wants to fill [Namor and Emma's] slots, but he also has his eye on potential challenges from Doom or Loki," explains Gages. "So it's to his advantage to have someone sitting at the table who he feels is

AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #31 preview art by Rafa Sandoval
beholden to him; who will back him and follow his lead.  Taskmaster is already working for Norman and has done a good job running the Initiative's training camp, so Norman sees him as a good candidate, but one who will not present a threat to his power."

Gage promises that Osborn's machinations will not go unnoticed by other players at the table and that it could get ugly.

"Certainly the likes of Doctor Doom and Loki will see what Norman is trying to do: tip the scales in his favor," he acknowledges. "At least one of them is not going to sit by and let that happen."

The biggest conflict Taskmaster could be walking into, however, comes from the Cabal member he has the closest connection to.

"The Hood is not welcoming Taskmaster with open arms," Gage reveals. "Originally envisioned by Norman, they would have had different spheres of influence, but the way things have evolved, the tension between them has increased."

Overall, no matter what choice Taskmaster makes, it appears there will be plenty of spectacular fallout, per Gage's promise:

AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #31 preview art by Rafa Sandoval
"With this group, it's safe to say nothing happens without some sort of drama, and, often, explosions."

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      Taskmaster is one of my favorite villains, but he's never really been a big part of marvel, so this is pretty sweet.