Taskmaster comes to a satisfying conclusion as the series masterfully weaved all the clues and pieces to its overall puzzle throughout the previous four issues, just like any solid spy mystery story. Art that could have been ripped right from the screen of any favorite film fills the pages of this overall delightfully fun and darkly humorous series.
A good mystery is one that employs a lot of the skills of a magician. Misdirection and distraction keep the audience from fully reaching the true conclusion too early. Taskmaster played that role quite well and all the pieces finally came together in a surprising and very enjoyable conclusion to the solid mini-series.
Tony and Fury have all the pieces that they need to crack Norman Osborn’s leftover Rubicon Trigger program, but they have to contend with Black Widow who is out for blood and hot on their trail. Jed MacKay is a master of character work, it is clear in all of his comics, and that is no different with this series. Taskmaster is a self-proclaimed ‘bastard’ mercenary for hire entrepreneur who can learn all the fighting skills of anyone he watches. While he’s not a hero by far, and is quite crude and jerkish at times, MacKay gets to the heart of the character in a way that makes you still want to root for him in his quest.
All that humor and character along with the trip around the world, while necessary for plot reasons, allow the mind to wander away from fully thinking about who may or may not be behind Maria Hill’s murder. Interestingly enough, there is a key moment from the fourth issue that serves as a meta-commentary on comic books as a whole that gave the biggest hint about who is behind all of the events of this story.
Alessandro Vitti and Guru-eFX have been on fire this whole entire series and get to keep that going with a brutal and drawn-out action sequence between Taskmaster and Black Widow. Next to all the humor and character of the series are the wonderfully put-together spy-movie action scenes that just come to life on the pages. These fights are exactly how one could imagine they would look if this was ever adapted into television or film at some point.
Even the stalking scenes are dripping with tension that just ramps up as the issue speeds towards its conclusion. Especially in the scenes with Taskmaster and Fury, there are some wonderful close-ups of both of them that communicate so much with their looks, even with one of them wearing a skull mask. Joe Caramagna does his magic helping to elevate these action/tense scenes when the time calls for it and support them in more subtle, but noticeable ways during the quieter moments.
Most stuff tends to act like this version of Nick Fury has always been Nick Fury, but MacKay wonderfully makes sure to drop some callbacks to the original 2011 Battle Scars mini-series. That series is where Army Rangers Marcus Johnson and ‘Cheese’ not only met Taskmaster but were put on the road to becoming the Nick Fury Jr. and Phillip “Phil” Coulson that are known in comics now.
While the road is over for this particular story with Taskmaster, the story effectively works as a showcase for why Taskmaster is such a fan-favorite villain. Just in time for the character’s upcoming big-screen debut.
Taskmaster #5 is now on sale from Marvel Comics in print and digitally.