The story of the Black Widow villain, Taskmaster, in Marvel Comics is that of a hired mercenary and hero at the same time. Could he redeem himself in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Could the Black Widow villain become the next antihero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? When Scarlett Johansson's first solo film for Marvel Studios finally lands in November (assuming the pandemic doesn't force another release date change), fans will finally be able to see who's hiding under the mysterious mask of the Mercenary Taskmaster and what it is. exactly its origin on the big screen.
In Marvel Comics, Taskmaster is Anthony ‘Tony’ Masters, a Brooklyn-born mercenary with “photographic reflections.” Able to mimic the physical abilities of anyone he sees, but once, Masters used his abilities to train criminals in stunts and fighting styles, with the goal of selling trained criminals to the highest bidder. He became Taskmaster, sporting an iconic skull mask and white hood and cape combo. It remains to be seen if Black Widow follows the same origin story for its on-screen version (some theories point to OT Fagbenle being the man under the mask), but the real question is whether Taskmaster will survive the events of Black Widow and progress to. become the antihero he eventually became the original material in the comics.
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Following the events of the 2007 Marvel comic series, Civil War, superheroes from the Marvel Universe were forced to either enroll in the superhero registry or flee. Taskmaster even served as a Drill Sergeant for The Initiative, training younger heroes for the government, having previously been employed by the US government as one of the Thunderbolts, a team rumored to make an appearance on the Phase 4 of the UCM. Kevin Feige could already be setting up the pieces of the board to turn Taskmaster after his Black Widow debut into something more.
At Marvel Comics, Taskmaster's employment at the Initiative led him to grow fond of his students, as well as enjoying being on the side of the good guys for a change. Taskmaster's new anti-hero status was challenged when Norman Osborn, aka Green Goblin, took over S.H.I.E.L.D. (renaming it H.A.M.M.E.R.) in the wake of 'Secret Invasion', which saw the Skrulls infiltrate the superhero community for several years.
Osborn forced Taskmaster to lead the Shadow Initiative, training criminals to pose as heroes, a fact that upset Taskmaster, who threatened to leave. Osborn threatened his life forcing him to stay. Sadly, MCU fans are a long way from enjoying a Dark Reign story on the big screen, as Norman Osborn has yet to appear in Tom Holland's Spider-Man series. That's not to say that Taskmaster can't continue to redeem himself on screen, as long as the writers decide to leave him alive at the end of Black Widow. Marvel has a bad habit of killing its best on-screen villains, and the list of MCU villains left alive is quite small.
Taskmaster had a hard time proving his redemption
Taskmaster's development as an antihero in the comics is disrupted when Norman Osborn is manipulated by Loki into attacking Asgard. Taskmaster is sent into battle and engages in a fight with two Captain America (Bucky and a resurrected Steve Rogers). Tragically, the captains are unaware of Taskmaster's rehabilitation as an antihero, and consider him the same villain he always was, especially since he's fighting alongside Osborn.
The internal narration of Taskmaster tells the reader how much this bothers him, as all his steps as a hero were in vain. Taskmaster can sneak off the battlefield alongside the Constrictor, but not before taunting Norman Osborn with the fact that he had helped Deadpool interfere with his plans. Sadly, both Taskmaster and Constrictor returned to mercenary life after the 'Siege' story.
Taskmaster could be the MCU's next antihero
Taskmaster could break with the tradition of MCU villains and not only survive the events of Black Widow, but grow beyond them, and potentially be redeemed as a force for good. The conflict within the character, who enjoyed his time as a hero in the comics, before being reduced to a criminal state by heroes who couldn't believe he had been reformed, is ready for adaptation to the big screen. His conflict with Deadpool in the comics also gives him a chance to appear alongside the loudmouth mercenary if Ryan Reynolds ever makes his “explosive” debut in the MCU. The character's propensity to train henchmen in the source material means that he could return to other MCU movies, although this version does not appear to follow the same footsteps as his counterpart in the source material. Rather, the UMC Taskmaster seems to have something personal with Black Widow and his companions, leading his own squad of well-trained mercenaries.
Regardless of the character's motivation as a villain in Black Widow, Taskmaster can still draw inspiration from Marvel Comics and progress beyond the events of the film and be rehabilitated as Loki in the Thor franchise, or Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy. This theory is drastically dependent on the events of Black Widow. It could be that Natasha Romanoff and her “family” of spies and super soldiers from the Red Room end up taking Taskmaster's life. This would be a shame, as the character has the potential for a powerful redemptive bow on screen, based on the source material. Whether it's in a Thunderbolts movie, a Deadpool reboot, or an eventual Black Widow sequel, Taskmaster could be the MCU's next great antihero.
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