This week’s Marvel Rundown is looking at a series featuring one of the most dangerous characters in the Marvel Universe. The MCU’s Black Widow film may have been delayed until next year, but that’s not stopping Marvel from releasing their slate of tie-in series, including a new miniseries starring Taskmaster! Taskmaster #1 finds him with a target on his head for a crime he apparently didn’t commit. Who wants him dead, and can all of his skills — and the skills he’s acquired squaring off against the heroes of the Marvel U — keep him alive?
We’ve got a review of Taskmaster #1, along with a Rapid Rundown of this week’s other releases from the House of Ideas, all ahead in the latest installment of The Marvel Rundown!
Written by Jed MacKay
Art by Alessandro Vitti
Color Art by Guru-eFX
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by Valerio Giangiordano & Arif Prianto
Reviewed by Zoe Tunnell
Sometimes you just want a fun comic book, y’know? With lines increasingly dominated by universe-shaking events and storylines that will CHANGE THEIR CHARACTER–FOREVER, it’s easy to be exhausted with crossovers and retcons and just want A Good Comic Book. A book that knows exactly what story it wants to tell does so with style, humor, and tons of action and requires absolutely no additional reading to understand. If this sounds like a thought that has crossed your mind, I’m happy to say that Taskmaster #1 is the comic you’ve been looking for.
From Jed MacKay (writer of the delightful Black Cat ongoing) and Alessandro Vitti, Taskmaster was initially conceived as a tie-in to the Black Widow film, in which Tasky makes his MCU debut. With Covid-19 delaying the film indefinitely, Marvel finally decided just to release the dang thing and, honestly? It worked out. Without the shadow of the MCU looming over it, Taskmaster can shine as a wonderfully charming, hilarious spotlight on Marvel’s favorite mercenary who isn’t named Deadpool.
The plot is a simple one: Taskmaster has been framed for the murder of Maria Hill and has to survive being on every hit list on the globe while trying to clear his name. While its plot does its job well enough, the issue really proves itself with Taskmaster as a lead. Every inch the cranky, blue-collar supervillain-for-hire fans would hope for, he makes for a protagonist that is just on the right side of competent to survive but close enough to the other side to have some hilarious misfires along the way.
One of MacKay’s greatest strengths as a writer is his sense of humor, some evident across pretty much all his Marvel output, and he puts it to great use in this debut. From Tasky’s ringtone being the Dolly Parton classic “9 to 5” to some genuinely hysterical inner monologuing upon realizing who exactly is trying to kill him, the book’s funnier than anything else Marvel has on the market. Thankfully, it isn’t just wall-to-wall laughs, as it delivers on both clever uses of the Marvel Universe and Taskmaster’s copy-cat abilities and bombastic action.
Opening with a supervillain golf tournament turned explosion-filled golf cart chase and rarely catching its breath from there; Taskmaster is a visual delight from both a choreography standpoint and on the strength of Vitti’s expression work. Vitti has quietly been one of Marvel’s most reliably talented artists for over a decade now, something I first took note of with his work on Secret Warriors. Able to readily shift between kinetic action set-pieces that flow beautifully to pitch-perfect expression and body language work to make every punchline land, it’s honestly shocking that Vitti isn’t a bigger name after all this time.
Really, I can’t recommend Taskmaster enough. It’s an absolute BUY from me, with zero hesitation. It’s got laughs. It’s got action. It’s got some creative twists along the way. In a landscape currently inundated with crossovers, both current and looming, and ongoings caught in the middle of 50-part epics, Taskmaster is the first part of a miniseries that, judging from this introduction, just wants to make sure you get a bang for your buck. Just like Taskmaster himself would want it.
Final Verdict: BUY.
- Champions #2
- The “Outlawed” status quo for Marvel’s young heroes continues as the second issue of this series expands more on the lengths that the government is going to to enforce Kamala’s Law, and the social upheaval that is occurring as a result. I wish these elements didn’t feel so familiar given the events of this year (and, really, of the past four years), but Eve Ewing, Simone Di Meo, Bob Quinn, and Federico Blee do a nice job grounding everything firmly within the Marvel Universe so it doesn’t feel like watching a news report. The discussion (argument?) between Miles, Kamala, Sam, and Riri further builds on the tension among the heroes established in the first issue, and adds a new wrinkle as far as Riri is concerned. This series is off to a great start. —JG
- Iron Man #3
- Christopher Cantwell & Cafu‘s deconstruction/reconstruction of Tony Stark continues as Tony and Patsy Walker come face-to-face with the ostensible big bad of the arc. Supervillains are all well and good, but the really fascinating aspect of the series continues to be Tony’s struggle with his role, both as Iron Man and as a very very rich person. Cantwell mixes in some great humor alongside Tony’s existential crisis, and the inclusion of Hellcat as a verbal sparring partner for Tony is inspired. I have no idea where this book is going but I’m really enjoying the ride. —JG
- Marauders #15
- The second issue of Marauders in two weeks continues the pre-battle festivities from the previous issue. After a truly exciting cliffhanger that promised to throw a huge wrench into the second half of X of Swords, this issue backtracks on it entirely in truly disappointing fashion, and the story continues more or less as expected. It was legitimately a letdown, though the other two X of Swords installments this week, Excalibur and Wolverine, rebounded nicely. —JG
- Star Wars: Darth Vader #7
- If there’s anything to be gleaned from the limitless number of Star Wars comics I’ve read, it’s that you should never count out Darth Vader when a couple of his limbs are missing. Here Vader goes toe-to-robotic limb with Ochi Bestoon, the very memorable flashback character from The Rise of Skywalker. Greg Pak is tasked with bestowing Bestoon with a personality since we don’t know anything about him… and he honestly kind of reads like a typical assassin character. He gloats all the live-long day but serves as a fine foil for Vader in the moment. Artist Raffaele Ienco continues to do good work here despite a few confusing panels here and there. —HW