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Quote1 My daughter'd kill me if everyone found out my secret identity before she did. Quote2
-- Ant-Man

Appearing in "The Terrible Toll of the Taskmaster"

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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 Daredevil, Spider-Man and Captain America among others. He admits that he once considered becoming a superhero but instead opted to pursue a criminal career in order to get rich. But he also shrewdly realized that supervillain types 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 main Avengers team (unaware of what’s going on inside) are still waiting for the three insect-themed heroes to report in. Iron-Man is reflecting on whether to cede leadership of the team to Captain America, a natural leader, when he notices ants crawling all over his faceplate. Realizing it must be a signal of some sort, the Avengers burst into the academy.

The team confront 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.

The Taskmaster, a coward at heart, flees from the battle. Iron-Man and Captain America attempt to stop him but he counters Cap’s combat moves, surprising both of them, and making a getaway.

Fleeing down the corridor to his hover-plane, he finds Jocasta has slipped ahead of him and is blocking his way. He attempts to waylay her, but she easily deflects his attacks, adding a few humorous quips as she does so. The rest of the Avengers catch up to them and corner the Taskmaster. Realizing he can’t take on the whole team himself, he distracts them with a sudden flare. The blinded heroes fail to stop him before he makes a full getaway.

Jocasta’s actions are applauded by Captain America, who officially “welcomes” her to the team.

Notes

  • 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 though ordinary ability), he has a demonstrable super power.
  • 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 letter from Kurt Busiek
  • This issue contains an advertisement for Hostess Twinkies featuring Spider-Man.

See Also

Footnotes

  1. First and only known appearance to date besides flashbacks



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