Last issue I couldn’t decide whether Ultimate Taskmaster was cool or lame. This issue helped me figure it out. The hard way.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Dave Marquez
Colors: Paul Mounts with Justin Ponsor
Lettering: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover:Dave Marquez and Justin Ponsor
Assistant Editor: Emily Shaw
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Plot: Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Bombshell, Cloak and Dagger team up to defeat Roxxon’s super powered hitman, Taskmaster. If you are planning to check out All-New Ultimates in April, I’d recommend reading this issue first. It’s basically a backdoor pilot to bring the team together.
Thoughts: Brian Michael Bendis may have his detractors, but you can’t say he’s predictable. This is the fourth issue I’ve reviewed for the site, and each time he’s tried something different with the narrative. In this issue he drops the flashbacks and focuses solely in the present. He’s already established how Ty Johnson, Tandy Bowen and Lori Baumgartner came to be super powered teens. This issue isn’t about that. It’s about what happens next. Roxxon has became nervous that his victims are becoming too public, and has sent Taskmaster to eliminate them. At the start of the issue he has already incapacitated the Spider-Duo and Bombshell.
Last issue I was unsure about Ultimate Taskmaster, however, after this issue I’d say he is one of the more formidable opponents Miles has faced. After Spider-Woman beats Taskmaster with everything she’s got, he just smiles and mocks her. It’s a very creepy moment, and illustrated as such by Marquez. This version of Taskmaster is not only strong but can absorb special abilities and use a character’s own strength against them. Miles has often depended on his venom-blast to defeat tricky adversaries, such as Electro or the Scorpion. Here, Taskmaster steals that ability and uses it against Spider-Woman, almost killing her.
The issue was all out action, and really fun to read. The first four issues of this arc where very grounded in character, this issue is basically a long fight scene, but a great change of pace. Of course Bendis is still able to deliver some interesting moments in between the punches. For example, he shows that Spider-Man is second guessing himself, having been retired for almost a year. However like Peter before him, Miles real strength is his intelligence. He is able to diagnose the source of Taskmaster’s powers, and ensures the other heroes don’t add to the problem. Similarly Bombshell, who initially ran from the fight, returns to aid Spider-Man and is able to distract Taskmaster. For a moment at least. The issue also demonstrates the admiration Miles and Jessica have for one another. They compliment each others skills during the fight, though not out loud. The caption boxes show the readers how they feel as they tag-team against Taskmaster. This fight is no way by the numbers, and Bendis uses it to show why we should be interested in this young group of heroes.
Eventually, with the help of Cloak & Dagger, Taskmaster is defeated. Then Spider-Woman decides to led the group to Roxxon, and end this once and for all. It’s fulfilling to see the Roxxon plot, which has been in the background for so many years, finally become the focus of the story.
When I was reading the issue through I noticed that the art looked a little different than normal. Something about it stood out and made the pages more vibrant. As I came to write the review I realised that the issue was colored by a different artist, so I must assume Paul Mount had something to do with this change. Mount did a fantastic job coloring the issue. He enhanced Marquez’ stunning pencil work and made this fight look even more dynamic than what we usually get from this title.
Grade – A: A fun action sequence, pitting the young heroes against an extremely creepy, relentless, villain. While still being able to include some small character beats and move the plot forward to set up the next issue. Ultimate Spider-Man at it’s best.
Nitpick: Lori is referred to as Lana by Cloak. It’s possible that this isn’t a mistake, as Cloak has a list of Roxxon victims and it would be Lana (the senior of the Bombshells) and not Lori who was was listed. It’s just odd she didn’t wonder why he referred to her by her mother’s name.