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Marvel Legends
by yo go re

You better kiss your mama at the bus stop, cause Taskmaster's taking you to school!

With the power to prefectly duplicate any fighting style he observes, the Taskmaster is an expert in countless forms of combat. Besides working as a hired gun himself, he trains henchmen for other criminals - teaching them how to counter the superheroes he has studied. Despite brief incarcerations, he remains at large.

Taskmaster was, really, a brilliant creation. Comicbook villains always have a huge entourage of generic, cannon-fodder henchmen who stand in the hero's way. But where do those minions come from? Who decides that their best career path out of school is to don a bright yellow uniform and stand between Captain America and the Red Skull? Well, other than philosophy majors, that is. And more importantly, how do these faceless people get the necessary skills to both operate the nuclear death cannon and to fire a machine gun wildly in the direction of the hero? Answer is that they have to be trained, and Taskmaster is the guy who does it.

At least that was the original intention. Eventually Tasky started training more "name" villains, and even became an active mercenary. Considering that his original intention was to earn money without getting beat up, that might seem out of character for him. Taskmaster has long been a favorite of Marvel Legends customizers, but now we've got an official version.

The figure's body is based on the ML9 Bullseye, which makes him a bit thinner than a lot of people expected. There's a new chestplate glued to him, and he's got a new belt. A holster is strapped to his right thigh, and there's a spiked band of some sort on his left. To top it all off, he's got new gloves and boots.

Since Bullseye's gloves ended above his forearm joint, the top edges are still evident here. That actually works out really well for Taskmaster, because it gives some extra dimension to the flared gloves he's wearing. Though the boots are similar in design to those worn by Captain America, Hawkeye and Cyclops, they're actually a new sculpt. The belt has a series of small pouches around the waist and a coil of rope hanging off the side.

Though he's recently received a pretty substantial costume upgrade, Taskmaster has always had one constant theme: a skeletal face. Various writers and artists have tried to show us what he looks like under the mask, but it can probably be assumed that those glimpses weren't his real face. As his creator, David Michelinie, said, "different faces? All those years I was writing Taskmaster, I thought that was his face! He wears a mask?" It's the later writers and artists who decided that was a mask, so it's up to fans to decide what's real and what's not. The sculpt on this figure straddles the line, so you could look at it either way.

The paint on Taskmaster has been a real problem. The body of his costume is dark blue, but the boots, gloves, trunks and cape are white. Such contrasting colors leave a lot of potential for really noticable errors, a potential ToyBiz really fulfilled with this figure. You may have to search through a lot of Taskmasters to find one that meets your standards. The white parts of his costume have the overdone blue wash that ToyBiz has been doing a lot lately. Mystique, Angel? Look what thou hath wrought. The wash on his face is grey, however, which is much nicer.

Articulation is good, and actually held one suprise. Though Tasky moves at all the usual 30+ Marvel Legends points, there's one bit of articulation that ToyBiz left out, to good effect: he moves at the wrists, but there's no finger articulation. As our own Rustin Parr is always pointing out, figures with finger joints can have trouble holding their accessories, so solid hands will mean a firmer grip. My Taskmaster's right hip is a bit loose where the balljoint enters the body, but this has less to do with the toy's design than the way it was assembled at the factory. No worries.

And speaking of accessories, Taskmaster is loaded. His gag was, since he could mimic the heroes' fighting styles, he carried duplicates of their weapons. ToyBiz could have really cheaped out, here, but instead we got a plethora of new pieces. So who's he copying? He's got a pistol (Punisher), sword (Black Knight), quiver (Hawkeye), billy club (Daredevil) and shield (Captain America).

The detailing on the gear is all very nice. The T logo on the shield is a raised element, there are control buttons on the club, a pattern on the quiver and a ton of details on the gun. However, the set isn't perfect. Did you notice anything missing in the list of goodies? Well, he's got a sword, but no sheath. He's got a quiver, but no bow and no arrows. Sure, you could use the quiver as a sheath, but that's not what it is and it barely fits under his cape as it is. There's a peg on the quiver that fits in a hole in the cape, to help hold everything in place, but it also forces the hood up higher on his head. Add to that the fact that in the included comic, Avengers #196, his hood and cape are obviously separate pieces. How can you tell? Because the arrows in his quiver stick up between them!

Part of the "Legendary Riders" series, Taskmaster gets a sweet set of wheels rather than a display base. Though to be honest, it doesn't even have wheels. In keeping with Tasky's second-hand style, he gets a copy of the hover bike that also came with Hawkeye, though his has a new paint job. The skycycle is 6" long and 4" wide, and is basically just a pair of wings sticking out the sides of a seat. The thing doesn't even have any handlebars, so how's a guy supposed to steer? The bike connects via a hinged peg to a jagged, stony base to simulate flight. Just like Hawkeye, Taskmaster looks goofy riding this thing.

Taskmaster has a few problems with paint, and seems to be missing a few accessories that would have made sense, but none of his flaws are so glaring as to keep you from buying him. This is a pretty important villain in the Marvel Universe, and it's great to get him in the ranks of Marvel Legends.

-- 12/26/05

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