Story by Joe Kelly
Art by Ed McGuinness
Issue #2 of Kelly and McGuinness’ run on Deadpool introduces someone who will become a mainstay in Deadpool’s world: Taskmaster.
Taskmaster, real name Tony Masters, was created by David Michelinie and George Perez and first appeared in 1980’s Avengers #195. He is a master combatant, gifted with the ability to mimic the moves of anyone he watches fight. Over the years, he and DP develop what can best be described as a frenemyship, as Deadpool tortures him the same way he does his other friends, and Tasky occasionally seeks revenge for it.
Over the years, Taskmaster has become a fairly big presence in the Marvel Universe. He starred in his own miniseries in 2002 and 2010, the former of which was drawn by Udon Studios, who also drew Tasky and his ex-girlfriend, Sandi Brandenburg, during Gail Simone’s run on Deadpool/Agent X. After Civil War, he was hired by SHIELD to train heroes at Camp Hammond (and kept on after Norman Osborn started running things in the wake of Secret Invasion). He’s also appeared in other media, including as a playable character in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and as an evil substitute gym teacher on Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man.
It’d be nice to think all that started with his earliest appearance in Deadpool, but likely no one had that foresight. In fact, this is Taskmaster’s only appearance during the Kelly run. He doesn’t appear again until issue #35, by which point Christopher Priest had taken over writing duties. If anything, Priest wrote the first legitimately memorable DP-TM arc, in which the two, along with the Constrictor, join a new version of the Wizard’s Frightful Four.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The Taskmaster of issue #2 is more your standard skull-faced villain with a training school in the Nevada desert. And he’s got Deadpool’s best bud, Weasel.
This ain’t no kidnapping, though. Not in the traditional sense anyway. Taskmaster is offering Weasel a job. “Ten G’s a week, a private, top-of-the-line workshop, the Playboy Channel,” which was a big deal in 1997 considering not everyone had access to free Internet porn at the time. Deadpool, naturally, gets jealous and responds the only way he can, by defeating Tasky in battle using unpredictable, chaotic movements that mostly just incorporate dance. Perhaps this is the ur-text for when Star-Lord challenged Ronan to a dance-off in Guardians. Either way, Taskmaster is humiliated, Weasel decides not to take the job and Deadpool celebrates by giving his friend a wedgie before things get too bromance-y.
In non-Taskmaster developments, issue #2 opens with Deadpool creeping outside Siryn’s bedroom at the Xavier Institute (X-Force was living at the mansion at the time), watching her sleep, a move he fully admits is stalking. Siryn’s going to keep popping up in the first trade’s worth of issues, but before long there’ll be a new woman in his life, one more in tune with his mental state.
Before any of this, though, before Panel One, even, note that the book uses a recap page to catch readers up to speed and remind you who the players are. At the time, it was one of the only if not the only Marvel book to use the convention, but soon and for a while the practice would become more widespread, with the company introducing a standard linewide format for recaps.
Next time on Thursdays with Wade, a de-powering DP is forced to turn to the man who made him for help, while Siryn tries her hardest to keep Wade from murdering him. Oh, and the Hulk shows up! So your suggested reading is Deadpool issues 3 through 5, and for extra credit, reread Deadpool: Sins of the Past, which introduces both Dr. Killebrew and Wade’s hots for Siryn.
In addition to writing for The Matt Signal, Dan Grote is now the official comics blogger for The Press of Atlantic City. New posts appear Wednesday mornings at PressofAC.com/Life. His new novel, Magic Pier, is available however you get your books online. He and Matt have been friends since the days when Onslaught was just a glimmer in Charles Xavier's eye. Follow @danielpgrote on Twitter.