Marvel character highlight #26: Taskmaster

Name: Tony Masters

Alias: Taskmaster, Barney Toastmaster, Captain America, Chief Warrant Officer T. McWilliams/Ground Crew Chief McWilliams, Tasky

Affiliation: Power Elite, Ravencroft Institute, Black Ant, Hydra, Hydra’s Avengers, Hydra High Sect, S.H.I.E.L.D. Secret Avengers, A.I.M., The Org, The Cabal, Initiative, Shadow Initiative, Committee, U.L.T.I.M.A.T.U.M., Cyber Ninjas, Lords of the Living Lightning, Sons of the Serpent, Black Choppers, Trenchcoat Mafia, Militiamen, The Inquisition, Agency X, Frightful Four, Thunderbolts

Special abilities: Photographic memory and, after taking an experimental version of the Super-Soldier Serum, the ability to memorize the motor skills and abilities of others. This ability comes at the cost of his own memory.

Background: Tony Masters was born in the Bronx and realized at an early age that he could perform feats he’d seen on TV just by watching someone perform them. When he matured, he joined S.H.I.E.L.D. as an agent. During a mission, he injected himself with the Nazi experimental version of the Super-Soldier Serum (much like the one that changed Steve Rogers) and gained enhanced abilities gained through his photographic memory and reflexes. This came at the cost of his memories as he overwrote his true memories with those of the person he observed. His wife, Mercedes Merced, then crafted the Taskmaster persona to help him. Through his ill-gotten gains as Taskmaster, he became a trainer of villains, or anyone who would pay. He has trained several super villains, been part of the Secret Empire and Hydra and re-learned his true past, only to lose it again after being forced to learn a new set of moves.

Relationships: Mercedes Merced (wife)

First Versus appearance: Marvel vs. Capcom 3

Appearances in other media:

Television: Ultimate Spider-Man, Avengers Assemble (animated)

Film: Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher, Iron Man (animated), Captain America: Heroes United, Black Widow (upcoming live-action)

Video games: Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Marvel Heroes, Avengers Initiative, Marvel: Avengers Alliance, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel: Avengers Alliance Tactics, Captain America: The Winter Soldier – The Official Game, Marvel Avengers Academy, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Avengers (2020), Marvel: Future Fight

Property Review: Avengers Endgame

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Assembled greatness completed

Avengers: Endgame
Marvel Studios, 2019

“We’re in the endgame now.” Dr. Strange was and always has been prescient about the situation at hand. Whether it’s his own battles with the likes of Dormammu or Shuma Gorath or facing off against Thanos, the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth is always planning and stark about the reality of whatever happens to be going on. In this instance, in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Strange was the most grounded and gave the most sobering assessment of all: The Avengers were going to lose before they won.

Based on Strange’s assessment in Infinity War, you’d think Endgame would be some bleak tale of revenge and that’s it. Technically, Endgame does begin as that, but it morphs into something more. It’s a tale of loss, hard choices, joy and survival. And, yes, revenge. It’s a do-over on some levels also. See, here, the Avengers who survived “the snappening” in Infinity War have to go on. They’re living day to day without their comrades, friends, loved ones and mentors/mentees. Life is bleak, with monuments to those lost when Thanos took out half of the universe’s population with a flick of his wrist and a twitch in his gauntlet. Time has, at once, stood still and moved on for those still around. They’re finding ways to cope and that’s the meat of the first third. It’s a brilliantly deconstructed look at the world in which the Avengers did not win. The visceral raw emotion of Avengers coping, and the world at large is beautiful and simultaneously heartbreaking. Of all the Avengers, Thor and Hawkeye are depicted as having the most pain with Black Widow a close second. It’s the train wreck that you can’t look away from and feel in your soul.

From that wreck, however, in the second act rises the phoenix of the Avengers and their allies. The most genius among them — Scott Lang, Hulk and Tony Stark — figure out a way to effect time travel. They engineer a way to travel to different points on their established timeline to retrieve the Infinity stones and bring everyone back. This makes for great comedy and revisits of some of the cinematic universe’s most memorable moments. Pop culture bits (such as America’s Ass for Captain America/America’s sweetheart Chris Evans and “Hail Hydra,” also for Cap) even make their way in, lightening the mood a bit. But alas, as you make one stride forward, there will always be another that takes you back. Hard choices must be made in order to see some gain, or so Marvel would have you believe. So, yes, you’re going to say goodbye to some fan favorites and yes, this is signifying that their time with the franchise is coming to an end. However, it’s handled well, and it invokes emotion so much so that young children will cry at the thought of losing their favorite superhero.

And, for a minute, let the editor just step back and reminisce about the experience of seeing the current crop of Avengers gathered together for likely the last time. When there was a pivotal death, at the most pivotal moment — yes, THAT death — there was not a dry eye in the house. A young child, no older than 6 probably, cried her eyes out. Adults around us, including the editor, sniffled and cried as though we had lost a beloved family member. THAT is how you do a proper sendoff to a beloved character and that is how you wrap up a story, one of redemption and selflessness for the character and the actor in real life.

Every beat hit and every note cleanly marked is the hallmark of these Avengers movies and Endgame was no exception. Threads from the early days were neatly wrapped and character investment paid off for nearly everyone. It was enough that when the lights came back up, the movie received a standing ovation and nearly everyone waited for a mid-credits scene that would never come. THAT is how you wrap 11 years and 22 movies into a neat package and remind everyone that you’re the master of the genre. That is how you thank your fans for taking the time to care and get to know your ensemble cast through individual movies and properties.

That’s Marvel, baby.

Like the comics?: 6
Casting: 10
Writing: 10

Overall score: 26 out of 30 or 8.6

HOW WE GRADE
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Top 5 on the Strip: Avengers Edition part 1

Steve Rogers/Captain America: If you ever needed a leader and wanted to make sure your every directive was followed, you employ Steve Rogers to get the job done. Rogers was the first Avenger and the last Avenger and the team’s heart and soul (and mom), no matter the roster.

Bruce Banner/The Hulk: Bruce Banner brings not only his vast genius intellect to the fight, but also his green angry alter ego Hulk, who is equal parts mad as he is cunning and destructive. The madder Hulk gets, the better the outcome for the Avengers.

Tony Stark/Iron Man: Much like Banner, Tony Stark brings his intellect to the fight and usually other toys to ensure that the Avengers will win. Beyond that, Stark provides a place for the Avengers to stay and upgrades for every team member. Think of him as the dad of the team as well as the brains of the organization.

Luke Cage: Now that Netflix has brought some of the more background Marvel characters to the forefront with excellent (but canceled) TV shows, Luke Cage has a spotlight on him that showcases his invaluable contributions. Cage is virtually indestructible with super strength to match. The Hero for Hire hasn’t joined the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe just yet, but know that when he does, it will be worth the wait.

John Walker/U.S. Agent: An alternate version of Captain America, U.S. Agent is a bad dude. Receiving his super strength from the Power Broker, John Walker has gone against Captain America and won as well as joined the Avengers and its derivatives such as Norman Osborne’s Dark Avengers. Walker once worked for the Commission on Super Human Activities and has taken up the Captain America mantle in the past.

Property review: Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War
Marvel Studios, 2016

A civil war worth fighting

No, this isn’t the “Late Unpleasantness,” but Captain America: Civil War is a bitter battle waged between brothers in arms. And it’s a fascinating look at that battle that has moral complications and implications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large.

Civil War starts out shortly after the end of the excellent Winter Soldier (editor’s note: Read our review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 4Q2014) and Avengers: Age of Ultron. The titular assassin is shown in a flashback to a pivotal event in an Avenger’s history and is, in the present, on the loose after rescuing Captain America from the murky depths of the Potomac River. Also, the Avengers have been bolstered by the additions of new recruits with a few losses in the lineup because of events in Age of Ultron. They’re on a mission to stop Crossbones (also new after the Winter Soldier) when everything planned goes horribly awry. The aftermath is swift: The Avengers are called on the carpet and told to shape up, join the government’s version of oversight or be hunted and thrown in jail with no foreseeable release. Sides are chosen and the lines are drawn as to who is going to remain with no oversight and who will work with the government’s registration act.

We have to acknowledge the powerful secondary tale that springs up among the Winter Soldier, Captain America and Iron Man. The civil war really comes down to the layered conflict between Cap and Iron Man. This is what’s really driving the overall arching fight between teams, but on a personal level, these two friends are hurting on different levels because of each other. Tony can’t understand why Cap doesn’t get the need for oversight and he feels jealous because of the relationship between Cap and the Winter Soldier. Not to mention, a plot twist late in the game brings the latter relationship to the forefront and is essentially the straw that breaks the camel’s back for Tony. Cap can’t understand why Tony doesn’t want to operate as is, given that Tony is a past weapons manufacturer and operates well without someone standing over his shoulder and the follies that were S.H.I.E.L.D and Hydra. Civil War’s excellent and tight writing basically boils down a conflict between best friends whose visions have grown apart.

Despite Civil War being one of the longer films in the MCU, it never feels like it. The pacing is excellent from the beginning to end, and you’re drawn into the action quickly and efficiently, which there’s plenty of. The flow of story to action is great, the humor is deftly weaved in with a lot of inside jokes and nods to past events and easter eggs, and it’s the perfect mix to keep you interested in what’s going to happen next. The fight scenes alone are worth watching just to see the choreography and stylish nuance found in recreating the ensemble’s various super powers and abilities. Every fight scene — from the brawl at government headquarters, to the chase at the Winter Soldier’s apartment and the giant brawl at the airport — is worth watching repeatedly.

Character development is also handled extremely well. New superheroes are introduced and older characters are further developed, which makes the characterization easy and natural and their interaction believable. You grow to care about the new characters, which is relatively hard to do with a large ensemble such as Civil War. You also get a sense that you would immediately know what each Avenger would decide to do because you already know these characters, and the ones you don’t know, you learn who they are and why they make their personal choices.

There are several additions to the cast that make Civil War stand out. The first is Black Panther, who becomes an Avenger at a later point in the comics. Here, the character’s introduction was handled so well that we’re eagerly awaiting the announced spinoff film for him. The second is Spider-Man. Yes, the web crawler’s recent film outings have been done to death, but it’s his introduction here that is nicely done. It serves two purposes: to finally bring him home to the Marvel brand once again and set him up correctly within the MCU.

The story, by itself, is an interesting tale of freedom and choices. We understood why both sides chose their positions in the Civil War, and we could easily empathize with both sides. While the comic version of this story is similar in forcing a stance on issues related to freedom and responsibility, the change made to the incident that causes the conflict between superheroes in the film is a welcome one and more relatable.

Where the MCU goes from here is debatable because of the many angles that can be taken in Infinity War, but it’s a going to be a great ride thanks to the fantastic build up in previous films such as Civil War.

Like the comics?: 6
Casting: 10
Storyline: 10

Score: 26/30 or 8.6

HOW WE GRADE
We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in cases of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of the max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

Property review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Marvel Studios, 2014

 

Winter Soldier strikes cool balance

There is no such thing as not believing in the magic of superhero films. Marvel has proven that a ridiculous number of times over by this point, and you can’t deny the impact that a good action flick about beautiful people with super powers has over the general buying public. But then there comes along a solid title that takes things a step further in terms of technical details, action, acting and writing. That film manages to open a new path in terms of presentation and overall packaging that makes you, the viewer, believe that anything is possible in terms of the improvement in quality for all comic book-based properties. That film is Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Let’s stop for a minute and take stock of the storyline, because this sets up just how well the movie makes its point about being a comic book property. Captain America is living life in the S.H.I.E.L.D way two years after the events of the Avengers. Things are good, he’s doing his job and all seems right in the world though he’s chafing a bit under the S.H.I.E.L.D rule. And then all hell breaks loose. In short order, Nick Fury is shot — apparently fatally — in Steve Rogers’ living room by an unknown assassin, S.H.I.E.L.D seems like it’s out to kill Rogers and he’s on the run while trying to figure out who and what can he trust. That assassin? It turns out this assassin isn’t really unknown but is the Winter Solider, someone that Rogers has encountered many a time before who’s fundamentally opposed to Rogers’ mission to stop the chaos.

There’s so much tight writing and story exposition jam-packed into two hours of Winter Soldier that it’s impossible to accurately describe the synopsis without giving away major plot points. Everything is a major plot point and the pacing at which it’s revealed is perfect. At no point did Winter Soldier give away the fact that it’s a two-hour film centered on political intrigue. At no point did it drag so much that details were lost. It’s the kind of movie that requires multiple viewings just to catch the little things that will be lost on the average moviegoer.

It’s a bad thing that the film doesn’t drag, though, because it’s the movie of the ridiculously good-looking (and great acting) people. Like every movie released in the Marvel cinematic universe, Winter Soldier seems to be casted with and directed by people who were secretly born to play their roles. Even the newcomer — Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon — fits this role so well that it’s as if he were always there, just waiting in the wings to be introduced. The acting is superb and it’s done in such a way that you really get behind the motivation of each individual, forgetting for just a moment that this, indeed, is a comic book come to the big screen.

Winter Soldier probably suffers from only one flaw and that’s the obviousness of the formula. It’s a great formula, and a great problem to have, but it’s pretty obvious by now that Marvel has its ducks in a row and they know how to put together a good crew and storyline for their movies. Winter Soldier slightly seems to fall into that complacency, but it quickly recovers and doesn’t stand for resting on its laurels for long. Just when you think there’s not enough action going on, there’s a distraction in the form of a great set piece or storyline push that remedies the problem. That’s the mark of a good movie.

Even if it is based on a comic book property.

Like the comics: 9

Acting: 9

Plot: 8.5

Overall score: 26.5/30 or 8.8

 

How we grade

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in the case of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of maximum of 10 per category, and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Marvel character highlight #19: Captain America (Steve Rogers)

Name: Steve Rogerscaptainamerica-fixed

Affiliation: Formerly the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., Avengers Unity Division, Illuminati, Invaders, U.S. Army, Secret Avengers, Captain America Corps, Secret Avengers, New Avengers

Special abilities: Enhanced speed, agility, reflexes, healing and stamina comparable to a man at the apex of physical perfection. These are the result of his receiving the Super Soldier Serum, designed to create the perfect soldier who is resistant to disease and injury.

Background: Steve Rogers was a frail and sickly man rejected from the Army during World War II. After he is finally accepted through multiple attempts, he is subjected to an experimental procedure called the Super Soldier Project. During this project, the frail Rogers is intravenously and orally fed a mixture called the Super Soldier Serum and bombarded by Vita Rays, designed to create the perfect soldier. The creator of the serum, Dr. Abraham Erskine, is murdered minutes after the successful procedure and the formula is lost to history thereafter.

Rogers is then sent on numerous missions to serve the Allied wartime interests of defeating Nazi Germany and the Axis Powers. During a mission circa 1945, Rogers and friend Bucky Barnes were attempting to stop a bomb-laden plane launched by Baron Zemo. The plane exploded in mid-air, apparently killing Barnes and throwing Rogers into the ocean. Rogers then entered suspended animation, freezing into a glacier until his discovery decades later by the Avengers as they were fighting against Namor.

Rogers, now thawed in the present day, joined the Avengers and led the team through many a crisis including stopping Baron Helmut Zero and a revived Red Skull, preventing Onslaught from taking over the world and destroying reality, bringing an end to the Civil War — which led to his death at the hands of Red Skull and hypnotically possessed lover Sharon Carter — and participating in stopping the X-Men’s Phoenix Force from destroying Earth.

Relationships: James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes (Winter Soldier/Captain America), best friend/partner; Sharon Carter, lover; Peggy Carter, lover; Sam Wilson (Falcon/Captain America), partner

First Versus game appearance: Marvel Super Heroes

Appearances in other media: Captain America in: The Doom Tube of Dr. Megalomann (video game), Spider-Man and Captain America in Doctor Doom’s Revenge (video game), Captain America and the Avengers (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds (video game), Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (video game), Marvel vs. Street Fighter (video game), Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage (video game), Avengers in Galactic Storm (video game), Spider-Man and Venom: Separation Anxiety (video game), Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems (video game), Spider-Man (video game), Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro (video game), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (video game), Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (video game), Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (video game), Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad 2, Captain America: Super Soldier (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad Online (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad: Comic Combat (video game), Marvel: Avengers Alliance (video game), Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty (video game), Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth (video game), Marvel Heroes (video game), Lego Marvel Super Heroes (video game), Marvel Avengers Alliance Tactics (video game), Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (video game), The Great Gold Steal (novel), Captain America: The First Avenger (film), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (film), Marvel Universe: LIVE! (theater), Ultimate Avengers (animation), Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther (animation), The Avengers (film), The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron (film; not yet released)

Top 5 on The Strip: WTF lines from Ultimate Avengers

BY JAMIE MOSLEY/Gaming Insurrection

Is there anything better than watching your favorite superheroes using their superpowers to save the world from certain doom? The answer: Yes, listening to those same superheroes deliver some of the best and memorable lines you will hear at some of the best moments in Marvel’s Ultimate Avengers animated film. This quarter, we salute the Avengers crew’s witty delivery in the face of danger.

Tony Stark (to Black Widow): “I’m free for nightcaps later. Interested? You can bring your gun.”

A billionaire by day and Iron Man by night, Stark is known to have a soft spot for the ladies. He has never met a woman who has resisted him or that would ever turn him down. So, when the Black Widow meets Mr. Moneybags and undresses him using her gun, the billionaire isn’t turned off, making him more hardcore than that other billionaire who wears a cape.

Bruce: “Any questions?”

Lab workers raise hands

Bruce: “Any questions not about the Hulk?”

Lab workers lower hands.

This genius is known for his brilliant mind and his hulking desire to destroy when he is angry. He is willing to do whatever it takes to be with the love of his life, Betty. That includes leading a lab trying to redevelop the Super Soldier Serum. Sometimes, people in his lab just ask too many questions.

After taking a beating from Hulk, Captain America walks up to the Hulk.

Captain America: “Hey! We are not done yet!”

Captain America then punches Hulk in the face … twice.

This all-American soldier is known for inspiring everyone — team members and readers alike — to be the best person you can be. But Cap also practices what he preaches.

Thor: “… and though we are but peaceful protesters, do not assume that we cannot be provoked.”

Whale hunter shoots at Thor

Thor: “ Like that.”

Lightning and wind batters the hunters

The son of Odin is no pushover. But, he doesn’t openly look for fights; he fights for only what he believes in. So, Thor, who, is from Norway — one of two countries that still hunts whales — is helping a group of people protect the whales from whale hunters. A noble cause, indeed. And all protests are peaceful unless he is provoked

Giant Man (while holding Hulk in his hand): “You’re still a little man, Banner. Now, knock it off or I’m gonna squish you.”

Hulk breaks the hold and grabs Giant Man by the neck. Hulk then punches Hank in the knee, breaking it.

The Hulk doesn’t have to speak for you to understand what he wants. You just know when he looks at you to either run or hope that Hulk is distracted by the time he gets to you. In fact, Hulk is the only person on the list who doesn’t have an actual spoken line. Hardcore.