cover image Taskmaster: Unthinkable

Taskmaster: Unthinkable

Fred Van Lente and Jefte Palo. Marvel, $14.99 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-0-7851-5260-6

Like a surfer riding a wave of weirdness, this tale opens up the personal life of one of Marvel's ubiquitous villains, the caped and corpse-masked combat trainer of other villains known as Taskmaster. As the story begins, he is sitting in a late-night diner, struggling to remember just who he really is. Immediately, however, he is attacked by competing teams of assassins from nefarious groups who all believe he has betrayed them, sending him and a waitress from the diner on the run to save their lives and find the facts. From there, page by page and panel by panel, the action gets much stranger. The Taskmaster turns out to have the ability to combine the fighting skills of multiple superheroes and villains, while his own personality is shoved aside and sometimes lost. Van Lente revels in this overcomplicated, self-referential nuttiness. Palo's art also embraces the jumpy plot, with overlapping images and ragged, rugged characters. The story works as light adventure with a high body count, but it manages to evoke sympathy for a character who is forced to be both hero and villain. (Mar.)