A little over a month ago, Marvel Studios released a teaser trailer for their upcoming Black Widow film set between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Based on everything we’ve seen so far, it seems that we’ll finally get the chance to uncover the true history behind one of the most enigmatic characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Everything from her training in the infamous Red Room to her ties to the Russian government and S.H.I.E.L.D to even her familial relationships. We also got a brief glimpse at the potential main antagonist of Black Widow, Taskmaster, which is kind of a big deal. Though he’s never mentioned or appeared in any other MCU film, the character has some very interesting ties to the organization S.H.I.E.L.D and Romanov.
If you’ve never heard of the guy, don’t worry, we’ve got covered. We’ll catch you up to speed on who exactly is Taskmaster and why you should be excited for this addition to the MCU.
History and Origins
Right, so before we go into Taskmaster’s possible role in Black Widow, we need to do a quick rundown on his past. Before taking up the mantle of Taskmaster, he was Tony Masters. Since a young age, Masters has had amazing photographic reflexes. This means he is able to quickly pick up and mimic the actions he saw with pinpoint accuracy. From mere observation of a particular skill for a certain period of time, Masters could well…master it. Naturally, this made him a proficient combatant and a prime candidate for military service.
Masters later joined S.H.I.E.L.D and through the years he became one of their top agents. On one of his mission, he raided a secret Nazi laboratory farming clones of Adolf Hitler that would be enhanced with a Super-Soldier Serum that would both unlock their physical potential and expand their minds. Upon taking the serum, Tony’s photographic reflexes were incredibly enhanced at the expanse of his memories, a side effect of the serum. The more skills Masters picks up, the less of his identity he remembers.
His wife, Mercedes Masters would go on to manipulate her husband by having him take on missions and task from “The Org” which was actually her in disguise. With the wealth he acquired from his various hits and missions, Tony would adopt the title of Taskmaster and go on to create a mercenary academy known as the Taskmaster’s Academy. During his period of training a death-worshipping Mexican cartel, he adopted his signature skull-faced mask as a sign of respect for them.
As his reputation as a legendary mercenary grew so did his insanity after years of procuring a multitude of talents. His consistent loss of memory makes his allegiances unpredictable. One moment he could be an agent of H.Y.D.R.A, the moment he could take on a task for S.H.I.E.L.D. But no matter the cause or organization he so happens to be serving, there’s only one person Taskmaster is loyal to, himself.
Powers and Abilities
Though Taskmaster isn’t exactly the strongest character in the Marvel Universe, he is definitely one of the deadliest. The man is able to memorize, mimic and execute the various fighting tactics he observes from his opponents. That means if Captain America throws his shield at him, Taskmaster could learn to adapt from Rogers’ methods and find ways to counter his enemy’s attacks in mere seconds.
In the comics, Taskmaster has mastered the fighting styles and patterns of combatants the likes of Spider-Man, Frank Castle’s Punisher, Wolverine, Deadpool, Hawkeye, Black Panther, Daredevil and Black Widow. Therefore to fight Taskmaster is to fight the collective skill and knowledge of every warrior he’s ever faced. In the Siege of Asgard, Taskmaster was shown to be more than a match for these so-called “gods”, making sport of them.
In the MCU there are few hand-to-hand combatants as skilled and adept as Black Widow. Her signature move is a dizzying leg-choke that leaves her opponents in a world of hurt. It would be so awesome to see how Taskmaster would use that skill against her. Not since Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther have we really gotten a chance to see a proper fight without of that fancy CGI effects on screen. I’m talking about some Paul Greengrass, Jason Bourne action. We already saw him in the trailer using a bow and arrow, not unlike that of Hawkeye’s so he’s probably got a ton of tricks up his sleeves.
Possible Role In Black Widow
We predict that the MCU will most likely adopt certain aspects of Masters’ backstory from the comics, namely his ties to S.H.I.E.L.D and his enhanced photographic reflexes he picked up from an alternate Super-Soldier Serum. In Black Widow, he may be employed by the Russian Intelligence agency, KGB, to tie up a loose end in Natasha Romanov. We could see flashbacks about how Masters interacted with Romanov and S.H.I.E.L.D. His knowledge of Romanov, if any of it is even still there, could make him a worthy adversary to the titular Black Widow.
There is however a more intriguing theory floating around the net that Taskmaster was the man responsible for training Natasha, either in the Red Room or at S.H.I.E.L.D. Both scenarios are entirely possible seeing that Taskmaster’s loyalties are relatively flexible. Perhaps it’s a case of the student confronting the master after years of experience.
Furthermore, it is shown in the comics that Taskmaster runs an academy to train some of the most dangerous killers in the Marvel Universe. Could he be the one who moulded Romanov into the expert spy and assassin we’ve come to know? We’ll just have to wait until the film comes out.
At its core, Black Widow is ultimately an espionage film in the vein of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Therefore, we find it fitting that in a world full of international conspiracies, warring intelligence agencies, spies and assassins that Marvel Studios chose one of the most deadly and unpredictable mercenaries to play the role of villain. It’s about time some of the more grounded and interesting characters are given a chance to shine. Let’s just hope he gets the treatment he deserves.
Black Widow hits Malaysian cinemas 30 April 2020.