The first trailer for Black Widow is here, and with it comes a glimpse at one of the film's mysterious villains: the Taskmaster. Who exactly is this masked mercenary, and what makes them such a formidable opponent? While Marvel is keeping details about this role in the movie under lock and key, we can at least make some guesses based on what the Taskmaster is like in the Marvel comics universe.
In the comics, Taskmaster is one of the most feared mercenaries in the Marvel universe, and with good reason: he's got a frankly terrifying combination of powers, and it all traces back to how the supersoldier serum works. Way back in Captain America: The First Avenger, we learn that the serum doesn't just bestow super strength; instead, it enhances everything that's already present in a subject's body and mind. In the case of the Taskmaster, the serum improved his memory to the point that he has the physical version of a photographic memory: his reflexes can learn, capture, and imitate the fighting style of any opponent he encounters. He even carries a variety of weapons to use so that he can most effectively mimic his opponents.
Although he's a dangerous enemy, he's not quite a true villain in the comics. He's after money more than anything, so he's willing to use his talents to teach anyone, good guys or baddies, so long as they can pay. A 2011 comic miniseries revealed more about his origins: behind the mask, he's an ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Tony Masters whose mission to eliminate a Nazi scientist attempting to re-create the supersoldier serum resulted in him getting powers but losing his memories of his original life. It's not clear yet if the movie's version of the Taskmaster will stick to this origin story or introduce something entirely new. Since Marvel hasn't revealed the name of the actor playing the role, that seems to signal that there will be some major twist beneath the mask. We'll have to wait and see what's revealed when Black Widow hits theatres on May 1, 2020!