Let’s talk about this friggin’ guy:
If there was a list of underused and incredibly powerful badasses in the Marvel universe, this guy would be at the top.
This is Taskmaster. Real name Tony Masters, because creativity is hard. This dude might look a bit goofy with his weird Medieval Nights get-up, but just you wait buck-o.
Got MEMORY powers.
Okay, let me explain. So, growing up Tony always had an incredibly photographic memory, to the extent of being able to mimic the actions and movements of others. This lead him to be awesome at basketball by watching the NBA and other cool shit that I’m sure made him a hit with other kids.
Later in life, Tony finds his mnemomaniacal ass working for S.H.I.E.L.D., which of course stands for Semi-Helpful Idiots Exercising Little Discretion, and eventually is injected by a Super Soldier Serum invented by some group called the Nazis. His memory powers at this point are like, wow, just so crazy, bro.
At this point, Taskmaster now has the ability to quickly mimic the movements, fighting styles, acrobatic abilities and finesse of any person he watches for a short amount of time. He can even fast forward footage of someone fighting or performing and retain the movements, though it takes a physical toll on him doing it that way. Essentially, this means if Taskmaster jumps into a fray with a super hero, he may take a few licks in the beginning but will eventually be able to replicate the person’s style in a way that lets him predict their movements and find flaws in their method.
This would be particularly useful if just about 90% of the world’s superheros relied on skill based powers like agility and general kick-punch-itude.
Oh wait, this ain’t DC.
So yeah. Captain America? Oh hey, thanks for that shield throw technique. Hawkeye? Ooh, cool, super precise arrow shootin’ now. Spider-Man? Wowzers, those flips look fun. Black Widow? Moon Knight? Iron Fist? Shang-Chi? Wolverine? Check, check and check.
Taskmaster can go toe to toe with best, and sure he can’t stand up to creatures like the hulk NECESSARILY, but being able to memorize someone’s movements leads to things like predicting speed, evaluating exertion and finding blind spots, meaning even against someone like
Lou Ferrigno the Hulk or Thor or any number of strong/magic baddies, he still has an advantage in the overall avoidance of said heavy hitters.
We’re talking about a dude who, by all definition, is WAY down on the power scale, but could easily hold his own with a majority of the biggest names in heroing (and has) simply because of his observational skills and retention. I don’t who you are (probably somebody that accidentally clicked onto this blog from a link on Google), but that’s insanely cool.
I’ve always been very interested in super-people that have very subtle powers. Hyper reflexes. Increased agility. Basically, all the not strength or web bits of Spidey. It’s just interesting to think that sometimes a lot of the other stuff possibly gets in the way. In Spider-Man, there have been many a time he’s been in trouble or injure when his wall crawls or webs or spidey sense are on the fritz. Stronger characters are often drawing the attention of even stronger characters, or simply drawing the full brunt of an enemies attacks as the priority target. Sometimes it’s the little guy who can’t fly or destroy planets with their mind that is a shockingly formidable opponent.
Taskmaster needs more love. He needs to be a big bad (or big good, I won’t judge). He strikes fear in Marvel heroes that often don’t know the meaning of the word. Spider-Man shudders when this skull-faced bastard swaggers into a room. He’s beat on Venom so bad that Valkyrie contemplated stepping in to help the symbiote out. He once splooshed Luke Cage with Nitric acid. He straight up fights Asgardian soldiers (outnumbered, mind you) at one point. Dude has seen and done some shit, and has
beat off defeated many Avengers at once on multiple occasions.
I think the biggest issue is that subtle powers like this just don’t play well if you’re not a lead character. Domino is a good example. If she’s just a background character, it’s tough to really show off her luck power. When she’s a main focus, either as a solo or in a team (btw, Gail Simone needs to always have a Domino title going at all times), then it’s easier to really let the visuals shine. That’s why Daredevil works. If we weren’t able to occasionally witness him hearing things from afar or seeing in his sonar way, it just wouldn’t always connect. With Taskmaster, since he was introduced as a villain and has mostly been such, it’s tough to really get the point across if he doesn’t have a lot of time. Otherwise, he’s just a very VERY good fighter. Still a total badass, but kind of just a normal ultra-badass.
I’m reminded of a Deathstroke scene from Identity Crisis. Yes, I’m swapping companies, but there’s a point. Essentially, Deathstroke is protecting a guy that a handful of the Justice League want. They go and try to collect and Deathstroke just lays them out with the greatest of ease. However, the moment is super slowed down, and the narration focuses on his very subtle movements in the battle and the things he does to exploit the weaknesses of the heroes attacking him. This is exactly how Taskmaster operates, but it’s a tough thing to always show in detail every time he pops up.
Now, I close by saying I am simultaneously excited and worried about Taskmaster’s appearance in the Black Widow movie. On one hand, I love this character and he is best boi. On the other, they are a) supposedly doing Ultimate Taskmaster, who is a weird different taskmaster that can actually replicate super-powers a la Rogue (why you do me like this, Bendis?) and b) see above about how subtle powers are hard to really show. Think back to Deadpool 2 when there’s a whole joke about how Domino’s powers aren’t good for the screen. Anyway, I’m maintaining hope that they’ll handle it well and that the “Ultimate Taskmaster” thing is just that they’re using the Ultimate costume and they won’t Wolverine Origins Deadpool me.
Give me more Taskmaster, Marvel. I needs it.