Everyone’s second favorite merc is back in a new miniseries. Meant to coincide with their big screen debut in the oft-delayed Black Widow film, this book has faced similar scheduling issues, but it’s finally here! For the uninitiated, Taskmaster is Anthony Masters, a combat instructor, mercenary, and occasional assassin, gifted with “photographic reflexes,” a talent that allows him to mimic the physical abilities and skills of others just by observation. While this doesn’t lend itself to superpowers, it is a skill that has enabled him to become a sought-after merc for hire, as well as a frequent enemy and even occasional ally to heroes such as the Avengers.
Our story opens with the apparent murder of a high-ranking SHIELD operative. By all accounts, this looks to be the handiwork of our title character, but, of course, things are not always as they appear. From there, we move on to the main meat of the issue, which features our “hero” on his latest job–assisting professional golfers alongside other villains. Naturally, things go south, and Taskmaster ends up in a golf cart, speeding through the course to evade an assassin. This all leads to a surprise twist and an unexpected team-up with one of SHIELD’s best.
Writer Jed MacKay spins a fun yarn, establishing a compelling whodunit mystery with just the right amount of humor and action-packed violence. The idea of pro golfers hiring bad guys like Taskmaster and Bullseye to compete against one another is just bizarre enough to work, although it’s the kind of idea that seems more at home in a Deadpool book. This is both a strength and a weakness, as our titular character comes off as Deadpool-lite, both in attitude and just how he speaks. Sure, both mercs have a lot in common, but even if the characters were interchanged, about 80% of the book could remain the same. That doesn’t make the story any less entertaining, but Taskmaster should be able to stand apart from the rest of his gun-toting brethren.
Alessandro Vitti’s art is fantastic; his layouts are on-par (not sorry) with the best artists in the business. His style is heavy on detail, most notably in the action sequences, which have a dynamic yet grounded approach. This is used to comedic effect when Taskmaster, in full garb, is evading an assassin’s bullet while on a golf cart, talking on a cell phone. It’s a ridiculous image that Vitti brings to life in a spectacular way. My only gripe is with Taskmaster’s skull mask is that it’s always a bit jarring to see him be so expressive beneath the mask, especially with a moving jaw, but it’s no weirder than Spidey’s whole eye thing.