Appearing in "The Assassin Academy"
- "Slick" Mick Butler (Only appearance)
- Ollie (Only appearance)
- Mahony (Only appearance)
- Gus Sweezer (Only appearance; dies)
- Customized Quinjet
Synopsis for "The Assassin Academy"
Scott Lang, dressed in his Ant-Man costume, is fixing connections inside his daughter's Rom doll when he hears her shout that she is home. Fortunately, he has just finished welding the final connection with his portable laser torch, so he quickly climbs out of the doll's innards and enlarges to human size. Cassie will kill him, he muses, if he does not have her toy fixed as promised. When she finds him, he is wearing only a towel, as if he had just taken a shower. She explains that her teacher, Ms. Buckman, let the class out early so they could practice a new recipe learned in home economics, and she will make it—pretzels and cheese—for dinner. Not too thrilled with this prospect, Lang tells Cassie to play with her Rom doll for a while, and when she departs, he quickly stows away his Ant-Man gear. Later that evening, as Cassie serves the promised meal, the doorbell chimes, and Lang invites Gus Sweezer, an old prison cellmate, inside. Sweezer remembers Lang as the only inmate who did not treat him like a "dumb pug," so in return, he wants to let him in on a new criminal operation he is involved in. Sweezer explains that someone is actually paying people to commit crimes, with regular paychecks regardless of their success or failure. There is even on-the-job training, says Gus proudly. Lang explains that he already has a steady job in electronics and has left crime behind forever, and Sweezer appears quite disappointed. Cassie invites Gus to dinner—pretzels and cheese are his favorites, he says—but he declines because he has to return to the city.
As Sweezer leaves the Lang place, he thinks to himself that the guards at the dorm would certainly be angry if they discovered he had left without permission. Then, suddenly, a car screeches around a corner behind him. Before he can jump out of the way, it slams into him and speeds away. The next morning, as Lang sits down to coffee, he reads in the Daily Bugle that Gus Sweezer was run over last night. He realizes Gus was killed because of the visit the night before, and he vows to find out what is going on. At the same time in Manhattan, J. Jonah Jameson tells Peter Parker to get down to Houston Street with his camera to find out why that section of the city has recently had its crime rate drop to near zero. Since Jonah pays Peter's rent, Peter heads for that unsavory neighborhood with his camera. As he passes by a certain warehouse, he feels his spider-sense tingle, so he quickly changes into his Spider-Man costume for a look around. He climbs the wall, shatters a grilled window near the roof, and enters a room containing a number of freshly made beds and a considerable quantity of guns. Clinging to the ceiling, he heads down a corridor, unaware that his moves are being monitored by the as-yet-unseen master criminal. The master orders his "advanced students" to report to the auditorium, because Spider-Man is about to become a "teaching aid." Spider-Man follows several criminals through the high-vaulted corridors to a room with heavy steel doors. As the last of them enter, he leaps down, knocks out the two sentries standing guard, and rushes into the darkened room.
His spider-sense warns him of the trap, but the doors swiftly clang shut behind him. Suddenly powerful lights flick on, and Spider-Man finds himself in a huge arena facing the Taskmaster: Hundreds of criminals are seated awaiting the start of the demonstration. The criminal tells Spider-Man that this is the Manhattan branch of his training academies, where he trains hoodlums off the streets to be expert criminals and makes money by renting their services. He intends to show them that superheroes are not as tough as they're cracked up to be. Now Spider-Man knows why the local crime rate has fallen so drastically. Seeing no way out of the trap, he attacks. But the Taskmaster gloats that his "photographic reflexes" allow him to duplicate Spider-Man's speed and agility. That and his shield, sword, bow, and other weapons keep Spider-Man at bay. When Spider-Man tries to wrap the criminal up in webbing, the Taskmaster's shield, and sword slice through it. Spider-Man finally gets close enough to put him in a bear hug, thinking that his superhuman strength is one thing the Taskmaster cannot duplicate, but the criminal hurls a special cane, patterned after Daredevil's billy club, that ricochets off the ceiling and stands and knocks Spider-Man out. Several of the Taskmaster's henchmen haul Spider-Man into an adjoining room.
Meanwhile, Scott Lang arrives by bus outside the warehouse. When he sees "Slick" Mick Butler, a gun-runner he once knew, entering the building, he decides to follow him, but as soon as he goes through the door, he is surrounded by several sentries armed with guns and rifles. They take his driver's license and insert it into their computer, thinking he might be a police officer, but the computer informs them that Scott Lang is an ex-convict. Believing him to be a criminal like themselves, they tell him to get in line with the other new recruits for indoctrination. Lang is pleased that the "hard part" is over. All he has to do now, he thinks, is find out who killed Sweezer. But as he enters the hall with the other criminals and looks up at the stage, his eyes open wide with astonishment. On the stage stands Lang's former foe, the Taskmaster, and next to him, manacled in stasis clamps, is Spider-Man. The Taskmaster informs his audience that for the next two weeks they will listen and learn, and anyone who thinks differently can check the tabloids for what happened to Gus Sweezer. Thus Lang learns who ordered Sweezer killed, and as he continues to watch, the Taskmaster hits Spider-Man in the stomach to show how helpless he is. The master criminal announces that he has scheduled a "field exercise" for his new recruits as a test to separate the "wheat from the curd." They will be issued uniforms and weapons, and they will be taken to the transport bay for instructions. So saying, he dismisses the audience.
The Taskmaster departs, leaving two sentries, Mahony and Ollie, to watch over the captive Spider-Man. Ollie soon gets the idea to peek under Spider-Man's mask, but when he tries, he finds it unexpectedly difficult to remove, and he is surprised by a small voice from Spider-Man's neck. Then he turns around and sees Mahony covered from head to toe in ants. Tormented by the insects, Mahony screams for help, but when Ollie rushes to him, the Ant-Man suddenly enlarges to human size and knocks Ollie unconscious. Then he quickly liberates Spider-Man from the stasis clamps and briefs him about the Taskmaster and his crime schools. Spider-Man orders his ant-covered Mahony to direct him and the Ant-Man to the Taskmaster's "training exercise," but the sentry refuses. Spider-Man asks the criminal how he would like to have the Ant-Man walk down his nose and enlarge to full size, he quickly gives them detailed directions. At a scientific supply warehouse "down River Drive and to the left," a cargo of nuclear materials is being unloaded. Armed guards stand watch to see that the canisters are properly handled. Suddenly the Taskmaster and his army attack. As his men battle the guards, the Taskmaster stands back, critiquing their technique. Then Spider-Man web-swings up, accompanied by the Ant-Man and a swarm of winged ants, and starts to battle the criminal army.
Disconcerted, the Taskmaster urges two of his men to load a cylinder of nuclear material as quickly as possible into his escape craft. Then he hurls his shield at Spider-Man, whose spider-sense lets him duck just in time. When several criminals jump Spider-Man simultaneously, the Ant-Man sends a swarm of ants to his aid, but he tells the Ant-Man to go after the Taskmaster instead. So, mounted on a winged ant, the Ant-Man buzzes the Taskmaster, who flails at him ineffectually with his sword. Then the criminal orders his men, Bruno and Cordell, to kill the guards. This forces the Ant-Man to fly to the guards' assistance and allows the Taskmaster to escape. The Ant-Man swiftly enlarges to human size and knocks out the two thugs, and a few seconds later Spider-Man finishes battling the rest of the criminals. As the guards take the hoodlums into custody, Spider-Man and the Ant-Man head for the top of the World Trade Center, whether they deduce the Taskmaster has fled. Atop the tower, the Taskmaster laments the closing of his Manhattan crime school, musing that he will at least get some money for the material in the stolen cylinder from a terrorist group. Unfortunately for him, Spider-Man and the Ant-Man arrive. The Taskmaster orders his two remaining men to start his skycraft's engines while he holds the crimefighters at bay.
He tries to wing Spider-Man with arrows, but Spider-Man dodges them and leaps at the criminal. The Taskmaster gloats that because he has studied films of both Spider-Man and the Ant-Man, his photographic reflexes allow him to anticipate Spider-Man's every move, and he counters Spider-Man's attack. Then the Ant-Man realizes that the criminal must have studied moves of Henry Pym, not himself, as the Ant-Man. So he does something that Pym never did: he uses his enlarging gas on something other than himself. Thus the Taskmaster is taken by surprise when the Ant-Man's winged ant, Purdey, suddenly grows to enormous size. While the criminal is distracted, the Ant-Man enlarges himself and grabs the cylinder. Then Spider-Man renews his attack, but the Taskmaster ignites a brilliant magnesium flare. As the two dazzled crimefighters shield their eyes, he takes off in his sky-craft. The Ant-Man is happy that they at least shut down his operation and hopes that this partially atones for Gus Sweezer's death. Then Spider-Man reminds him about the giant ant, and the Ant-Man hurries after it as it launches itself from the roof's edge.
- This story makes multiple mentions to the Taskmaster's clash with the Avengers in Avengers #195-196.
- This story makes multiple mentions of Scott Lang's past criminal record. He used his technical know-how to commit robberies until he was arrested. Upon his release from prison, he went straight, as seen in Avengers #181.
- The depiction of the original twin towers at the site of the World Trade Center should be considered a topical reference per the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616. The original towers were destroyed on September 11, 2001. The Timescale has moved forward enough that the modern age doesn't begin until well after that date.
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