Taskmaster #4 Review

by Charles Martin on March 10, 2021

Taskmaster #4 Review
Writer: Jed MacKay
Artist: Alessandro Vitti
Colourist: Guru-eFX
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Confession time! After raving about this series' debut issue, I let it fall right off my radar. Now I'm dropping back in at #4.

Although this is a sub-optimal way to read comics, it works for this series in a way that it wouldn't for many others. #1 was witty and stylish, but it also gave the series an episodic structure: Tasky has to collect three plot coupons to solve the murder of Maria Hill, make Nick Fury happy and, coincidentally, save his skin from the wrath of the Black Widow.

In #4, Taskmaster picks up the last coupon: the "kinesic signature" of General Okoye -- in Tasky's own words, "Wakanda's toughest warrior this side of the king himself." (Which might be a diss against Shuri but whatever.)

Taskmaster's plan for infiltrating Wakanda and getting his all-important look at Okoye in action does have a twist or two in it, but they're strictly action-movie-level surprises, i.e., not that surprising at all. It boils down to clobbering Hatut Zeraze goons until Okoye gets angry enough to fight him herself.

Artist Alessandro Vitti handles the clobbering with well-honed skill, posing the fighters dynamically and framing critical strikes where they'll catch the reader's attention. (Taskmaster favours bone-breaking as a way to get past the Wakandans' Vibranium armour.) 

The colours do some powerful scene-setting work, framing the start and finish in overwhelming blue nighttime shades. But the core fighting takes place in a warmly-lit training arena, bathed in an orange light that alters the characters significantly. (And Guru-eFX brings that orange back for a critical highlight in the final, foreshadow-y panel.)

But Mr. Vitti's version of Okoye is … unique. Obviously, this isn't an occasion that prompts a lot of smiles or open body language, but this rendition of Okoye is singularly grim-faced and combative. There's even a lot of heavy shadow work on her face, which I believe creates a visual parallel with Taskmaster's skull-mask.

Within the core fight scene, Tasky hits on Okoye (As in, he flirts as well as fights). It might just be a tactic to anger her further, but it also reads as genuine attraction. And in the first act, Taskmaster has some nigh-meta-fictional thoughts on the relationship between male heroes and the women they care about. Yes, he's talking about girlfriend-fridging.

He notes that Bullseye is a fan of killing women that heroes care about. In Tasky's experience, that just gets heroes angrier, so he sticks to a "no wives, no girlfriends, no mothers" policy. "Not just because it's gross, though it is." 

He ties these musings to the story at hand by wondering about the motivations of Maria Hill's killer. Was it a calculated ploy to get Nick Fury Jr. angry and push him into actions he wouldn't otherwise consider (like, say, working with Taskmaster)?

As far as I'm concerned, Jed MacKay establishes exactly enough distance between himself and his protagonist when he lays out this objectified view of women. I'll buy that these are Taskmaster's opinions, not Mr. MacKay's. I'd even wager cash on the upcoming finale maybe dishing out some feminist comeuppance for Tasky.

(And Mr. Vitti's all-business rendition of Okoye plays into that creator-character separation. Taskmaster might be sexualizing Okoye while fighting her, but the art discourages the reader from doing so. )

But we've still left with a comic where female characters are defined exclusively by how men view them. Maria Hill is a dead victim who needs avenging. Black Widow is a lethal threat to be avoided. Okoye is a target for Taskmaster's professional and romantic attention. It's a comic that would struggle to pass the Bechdel test even if it put two women into one panel, which it doesn't.

Again, I must stress that this "men are people, women are objects" worldview comes out of Taskmaster's head, not the creators'.  

Taskmaster #4 delivers a simple infiltrate-and-fight mission that successfully produces a Tasky-Okoye throw-down. The story is told with more-than-competent skill, but it's so straightforward that the reader's attention will likely wander into murkier waters, like Taskmaster's chauvinism.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture

This issue teases the rare sight of Taskmaster without his skull mask. Has his face ever been fully revealed?