Issue(s): Avengers #194, Avengers #195, Avengers #196
Falcon, ever mindful of the fact that he was only on the team due to a government quota, quits.
The first issue of this arc is called interlude, and it deals with the Avengers during some downtime. We get to see Ms. Marvel and Captain America almost developing a little romantic interest...
...the Beast hanging out with Wonder Man and mocking him for the children's show that he's working at...
...Iron Man having a Dr. Pepper...
...and the Vision trying to convince himself that he's just a machine to hide the fact that he's emotionally hurt by his wife's decision last issue to quit the team.
Then we get started with the plot, and it's a good one. It starts with a guy that has escaped from what seems to be a mental institution...
...but the Avengers investigate further and discover it's actually a set-up for henchmen training. When Doc Ock or any other super-villain wants a bunch of hired goons that can survive a few minutes with Spider-Man, this is where they go to. Like the Tinkerer supplying gadgets and the Machinesmith providing robots, it's part of an effort to give semi-realistic explanations as to how villains are able to operate, and it's a cool idea.
Ant-Man (Scott Lang) is asked to accompany Yellowjacket in the initial surveillance of the facility.
Both are captured, of course. (On their way in, Pym asks Lang why he makes so many movie and TV references. Lang replies that everyone has a hobby; Lang's is videos and Pym's is... the Wasp. Uhhh?)
The man in charge of training the henchmen is the Taskmaster.
The Taskmaster isn't really interested in direct conflict with super-heroes, but the manager of this facility has been doing side experiments in cloning to keep himself alive, and that's what the escaped mental patient really was. But the Taskmaster isn't exactly a wimp, either. He's got photographic reflexes that let him mimic any actions that he's seen. So he can wield a shield like Captain America, shoot a bow like Hawkeye, kick like Iron Fist, etc. He can't mimic super-powers, but he seems to be able to mimic some super-heroic movements; he can jump and flip like Spider-Man, for example (which i wouldn't think should be possible without Spidey's super-human strength and agility).
Still, he's no match for the like of Iron Man or the Vision, so after putting up a good fight...
...he flees the scene.
The Taskmaster's defeat is in part due to the actions of Jocasta, and she's officially "welcomed" in issue #196. But she's still not an official member of the team.
Michelinie and Perez are both in top form.
This arc has great character moments, an interesting plot, and very nice layouts and art. The Taskmaster is a unique villain, and he's got a good design.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This has been moved forward a bit to help place Iron Man's appearances in Iron Man #134-135 and She-Hulk #6. Since the Avengers will be shown returning from this battle in Avengers #197, no Avenger should appear anywhere else between this issue and that one.
Continuity Insert? I have the Beast returning to the Avengers after a run with the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #134-138. The downtime in issue #194 is a good time for the Beast to deal with his loss (behind the scenes) over the death of Phoenix.
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showAnt-Man (Scott Lang), Beast, Captain America, Carol Danvers, Falcon, Henry Pym, Iron Man, Jarvis, Jocasta, Redwing, Taskmaster, Vision, Wasp, Wonder Man
Kurt Busiek has a letter in #196.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 25, 2013 6:27 PM
A good little arc, partially because of the Perez art, partially because of the nice characterization (especially the Beast / Wonder Man friendship), partially because of the introduction of Taskmaster, who really is an interesting character (and I love the explanation for where all those thugs that super-villains use come from) and partially because this is a seriously great team - with Iron Man, Vision, Ms Marvel and Wonder Man, that is an Avengers line-up with some serious, serious firepower.
Posted by: Erik Beck | April 21, 2015 9:20 AM
I'd have liked to have seen this version of Taskmaster team up with The Shocker since both were professional super villains.
Posted by: david banes | May 29, 2015 1:05 PM
I'd like to see Taskmaster team up with the Tinkerer. Then all you would need would be a character called the Lairbuilder to meet all your super-villain shopping needs.
Posted by: Andrew | September 15, 2016 8:46 PM
Taskmaster is the coolest villain in my opinion. He's uniquely skilled, and generally smart enough to stay away from the fighting if he can. I just wish he had more appearances...
Posted by: Matthew | October 28, 2016 2:23 PM
Well, that's probably the result of being smart enough to stay away from the fighting ;-)
Posted by: George Lochinski | October 29, 2016 3:09 AM
Really good story. I remember the Taskmaster from Captain America pages but hadn’t read this Avengers arc until coming across this post and then checking it out through Marvel Unlimited. I always thought Taskmaster was a pretty slick villain, great idea for coming up with bad guy abilities. Also, the art in this arc seems superb for 1980 comics. Thanks for posting this!
Posted by: Paul Peterson | March 28, 2018 12:38 AM
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