Taskmaster: Taken to Task

Fred Van Lente prepares to bring the mysterious Marvel mercenary into the light!

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TASKMASTER #1 preview art by Jefte Palo
By Chris Arrant

The go-to guy for training villains-and a few heroes-in the Marvel Universe finally gets a chance to go on his own.

In the upcoming TASKMASTER limited series debuting September 1, the skull-faced mercenary's on the run with a billion dollar bounty on his head after the criminal underground thinks he's turned traitor. After his appearances in SIEGE and AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE, Taskmaster has taken to working both sides of the law from the middle and trying to find out his own origin to boot.

"After the fall of the Osborn regime in Siege, Taskmaster went back to mercenary work as seen in AGE OF HEROES #3," reminds writer Fred Van Lente. "It turns out that someone is spreading nasty rumors about him; rumors that he's been flipped to the side of heroes by Steve Rogers after getting captured."

Taskmaster has worked for years as the preeminent fight coach for characters on both sides of the law, including Spider-Woman, USAgent, Crossbones and countless henchman and flunkies.

"Taskmaster has worked as a trainer for villains of all stripes," says Van Lente, "The top-secret shadow organization that's been booking his assignments all these years is coming to light to take him down."

This criminal enterprise called the Org may be new to fans, but it's been behind Taskmaster's activities since his 1980 debut in AVENGERS #195. Now after all these years, the Org thinks that Taskmaster's been turned to the side of the angels.

"The Org thinks that the Taskmaster is going to give up the secrets of the villain underworld he's gained all these years, and they put a bounty on their head," explains the writer. "You've got agents from HYDRA, the Maggia, AIM, the Sons of the Serpent, the Legions of the Living Lightning, and pretty much every other villain organization you've ever seen-and a couple of new ones you haven't."

TASKMASTER #1 preview art by Jefte Palo
In addition to some new criminal outfits, a new villain also makes his debut in the pages of TASKMASTER.

"The Don of the Dead will be your new favorite Marvel villain," vows Van Lente. "I just want to make that totally plain from the beginning. He's one of my most favorite characters I've created, and he runs a drug cartel in Mexico. There, they have a festival called the Day of the Dead-and I don't want to spoil it, but he may have a connection there."

Will Don of the Dead prove a friend or foe to Taskmaster? Van Lente's keeping that answer close to his vest.

"That's the big question: he could be an ally or enemy? What I can say is that he has ties to Taskmaster's past."

Although the character been active for three decades, Taskmaster's true origin and even real name remain a mystery, but that's going to change by new series' end.

"That's the big point of the [series]," says Van Lente. "One of the main objectives is to get to the bottom of Taskmaster's secret origin. He's had the perfect one up until now; it's been so secret that even he doesn't know what it is."

One of the most memorable aspects of the Taskmaster character has been his power set - but as it turns out, that's also his biggest problem.

"Basically, Taskmaster's power is photographic reflexes-he can fight Spider-Man or Daredevil, for example, and acquire their fighting skill in a matter of minutes," Van Lente recaps. "But like all powers in the Marvel Universe, these gifts have some consequences. Think of Taskmaster's brain like a hard-drive, and these big files, the fighting styles, have over time overwritten his older memories. Every time Taskmaster learns a new skill, it over-writes a memory he had from the past. So at this point with years spent training others, he's completely forgotten his real name, as well as how he got his powers and where he came from."

TASKMASTER #1 preview art by Jefte Palo
Jefte Palo joins Van Lente as the artist of TASKMASTER, fresh off work on PUNISHER. The creators have worked together twice before: once on the previously mentioned Taskmaster story in AGE OF HEROES #3 and for a short story in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #6.

"I really enjoyed working with Jefte on that Lizard and Man-Thing story, and our editor Lauren [Sankovitch] worked with him on DOCTOR VOODOO," reflects Van Lente. "What you try to do when you're writing comics is to suit the script to the artist's style and skills. Since Jefte has such a unique and stylized way of composing images, it's matched perfectly with the espionage feel of TASKMSTER. Early on I started tailoring the script specifically to his strengths."

Although this story will unfold over the course of a few issues, Marvel has big plans for Taskmaster in the coming years.

"There are two titles I know about that he'll be appearing in after the conclusion of this series," reveals Van Lente. "What's cool about this story is that what transpires here will have ramifications on Taskmaster for the long haul, and they will be felt in every future appearance by him. Once you find out who Taskmaster really is and the genesis of his powers, fans will see him in a completely different light."

 

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      4 comments
      Voulge
      Voulge

      Finally one of the better villains gets his own limited serie.I really really like the Taskmaster.Has cool powerset and is not a regular thug.Evry comic he appears in is a fun read.Esspeciall avengers the initiative.

      epsilonstar
      epsilonstar

      If Deadpool can make a successfull book, why not Task Master.

      deadpool231172
      deadpool231172

      what a classic charactor,bout time he got his own book.