- My daughter'd kill me if everyone found out my secret identity before she did.
- -- Ant-Man
Appearing in "The Terrible Toll of the Taskmaster"
- Ant-Man (Scott Lang)
- Yellowjacket (Hank Pym)
- Solomon Institute
- Daredevil (Matt Murdock) (Mentioned)
- Hawkeye (Clint Barton) (Referenced)
- Spider-Man (Peter Parker) (Only in flashback)
- Iron Fist (Danny Rand) (Only in flashback)
- Cassie Lang (Mentioned)
Races and Species:
- Ant-Man's Suit
- Yellowjacket's Suit
- Wasp's Suit and Wings
- Captain America's Uniform and Shield (Main story and flashback)
- Daily Bugle (Named only) newspaper
- Spider-Man's Suit (Only in flashback)
- Iron Man Armor Model 4
- Ms. Marvel's Suit
- Ant-Man's Helmet
Synopsis for "The Terrible Toll of the Taskmaster"
Story continued from the last issue.
The Taskmaster holds Yellowjacket, the Wasp, and Ant-Man captives, their shrinking powers neutralized. The heroes question who he is, and he obliges by relating his history: The Taskmaster was born with photographic reflexes, the ability to instantly mimic any type of physical skill, including hand-to-hand combat maneuvers, he observes. Just by watching news reports of superheroes, he became adept at the fighting styles of Spider-Man, Captain America, and Iron Fist, among others. He admits that he once considered becoming a superhero, but opted to pursue a criminal career instead, since that's where the money lie. Yet, he also shrewdly realized that supervillains who make public spectacles of themselves, tended to more often get defeated by heroes and sent to jail. So instead of trying to be a criminal mastermind, he chose to train flunkies to serve those types of villains. He has been successfully running an underground operation of training academies for several years.
At that point, he begins to take out his anger at Dr. Solomon, whose indiscretions (having his lab men create a clone, Selbe) led to the three heroes discovering his secret school. Solomon begs for mercy and the Taskmaster throws him a bone by tossing him a firearm and giving him one chance to take him down before he kills him. The flustered Solomon, who has never actually fired a gun before, disappoints the Taskmaster, who doesn’t even have to try and deflect the shot. Yet before Taskmaster can take Solomon out himself, the hapless elder man drops dead of a stress-related heart attack. Taskmaster dismisses him as a wimp.
Outside the compound, the main Avengers team remain unaware that the insect-themed heroes have been captured and await their return. Iron Man reflects on whether he should cede leadership of the team to Captain America, who is a natural leader. However, in the middle of this thought he notices ants crawling all over his faceplate. The Avengers realize that this must be a signal from Ant-Man, and the team burst into the academy.
The team confronts the Taskmaster. Yellowjacket explains to the villain that Ant-Man had just enough time to send out the ants to alert the team before he took away his control helmet. As the Avengers stride in, they are initially taken by surprise by the institute’s small army and weapon capabilities but quickly engage the trainee flunkies in combat.
Meanwhile, Selbe (who’s been kept on a leash nearby this whole time) konks an academy guard on the head, takes his blaster, and blasts the shackles holding Yellowjacket, Wasp, and Ant-Man. Wasp thanks him with a friendly peck on the cheek and the three heroes join the fray.
As the Avengers battle an army of trainees, Iron Man and Captain America break away from the main group to take on the Taskmaster. Iron Man is shocked at the villain's ability to effortlessly counter Captain America's moves. After stunning Iron Man, the Taskmaster is tempted to try to single-handedly defeat the Avengers one by one. However, he determines that the smarter course of action would be to make his escape, rather than try to gratify his ego.
As he flees down the corridor to his hover-plane, the Taskmaster finds Jocasta has slipped ahead of him and is blocking his way. He attempts to waylay her, but she neutralizes his attacks with a forcefield, adding a few humorous quips as she does so. The rest of the Avengers catch up to them and corner the Taskmaster. He admits that he can’t take on the whole team at once and uses a trick arrow to distract the team with a blinding flash. The dazed heroes fail to stop him before he makes a full getaway.
Jocasta’s actions are applauded by Captain America, who apologized for himself and the other Avenger's tendency to overlook her contributions to the team in the past.
- This is the first full appearance of the fan-favorite character the Taskmaster. Although it is not described as such in the story, his "photographic reflexes" ability arguably qualifies him as a mutant. While described as similar to photographic memory (a demonstrable through ordinary ability), he has a demonstrable superpower.
- Jocasta is unofficially welcomed to the active Avengers team, possibly as a replacement for Ms. Marvel who will be jettisoned from the team in the next few months. Jocasta never officially becomes an Avenger, however.
- What becomes of Selbe after this issue is never explained, as he is simply dropped with the conclusion of this story and never mentioned again. Given the circumstances of his creation, he is unlikely to be able to fend for himself now that he is no longer being housed at the institute. Perhaps the Avengers dropped him off in a social worker's office on their way home.
- Letters page includes a letter from Kurt Busiek
- First and only known appearance to date besides flashbacks
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