Black Widow Finally Introduces Taskmaster, But Who Is Behind the Mask?
Marvel's Black Widow brings Taskmaster into the MCU, but who is behind the mask?
This article contains MASSIVE spoilers for Marvel’s Black Widow
We had to wait a long time for Black Widow. Marvel and Disney’s Phase 4 solo film for Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) was originally set to be released back in May of 2020 but, well, we all know what happened next, so this summer finally brought us our first Premier Access MCU film. Luckily Black Widow was worth the wait.
It’s an action-packed installment that introduces a slew of new characters we’ll likely see again in future MCU films and Disney+ shows. One of those is the highly anticipated Marvel Comics villain Taskmaster, who can mimic any fighting style. You’ve heard of people who have a photographic memory, but Taskmaster has photographic reflexes and in Black Widow we see the character perfectly copy the moves of Hawkeye, Captain America, Black Panther, and even Natasha herself, making them a formidable adversary.
The Marvel Comics Taskmaster
Created by David Michelinie and George Perez and introduced in 1980 in Avengers #195, Taskmaster has become a go-to mercenary for hire in the pages of Marvel Comics, where his particular skills are often priceless. Eventually, Taskmaster realized he could take advantage of his talents without risking life and limb by becoming a tutor. He also realized that both the good guys AND the bad guys would be willing to cough up the cash for his services given the right scenario. Taskmaster can therefore run a pretty perfect game with few drawbacks.
In the comics, Taskmaster’s name is Anthony Masters, so the MCU’s “Antonia” is a nod to that.
We have more on Taskmaster’s comics history here.
The MCU Taskmaster
But in Black Widow, which is set between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Taskmaster works for General Dreykov (Ray Winstone) and gives off Terminator and Nemesis vibes – stalking and attacking Natasha as she tries to track down Dreykov and finally put an end to his Red Room programme.
When Natasha first defected to work for the US government, her last test was to eliminate Dreykov, a task she thought was accomplished by making sure his young daughter was in the room with him when a bomb went off. Indeed, the “collateral damage” killing of Dreykov’s daughter has long haunted Natasha, and the incident was first mentioned all the way back in 2012’s The Avengers when Natasha interrogated Loki before the Battle of New York. Unfortunately, as we learn during Black Widow, she didn’t succeed in killing Dreykov during that mission, and ended up maiming his daughter Antonia during her attempt.
Black Widow eventually unveils Taskmaster as Antonia (Olga Kurylenko), the grown-up and still disfigured daughter of General Dreykov. Kurylenko is a Ukrainian-French actress who starred in the movie Paris, je t’aime before snagging more action-based roles in Hitman and Max Payne.
Her big break came in 2008 when she starred as Bond girl Camille Montes, a Bolivian agent with a vendetta in Quantum of Solace. Interestingly, that film has a number of ties to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it also features her Black Widow co-star David Harbour, and What If? narrator Jeffery Wright. Kurylenko also later starred in the Tom Cruise-led sci-fi flick Oblivion and led the cast of the massively underrated 2019 indie horror The Room.
After finding out that Taskmaster is Dreykov’s daughter, Natasha decides to save her by deactivating her Red Room control. Antonia then departs with the Yelena and the rest of the Widows to help others affected by the same chemical process who have now had their freedom unlocked. Meanwhile, Natasha will die at the bottom of a cliff on Vormir having given her life for the Soul Stone in Avengers: Endgame.
If you’re wondering when we might run into Antonia again, the comics might suggest some intriguing MCU avenues, as it was Taskmaster who set about training John Walker after he was stripped off his Captain America mantle. Following the events of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Wyatt Russell’s Walker is already on his way to becoming his Marvel Comics counterpart US Agent thanks to Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss), and it was confirmed that Valentina has also drawn Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) into her web during Black Widow’s post-credits scene.
These three may be pulled together to work on whatever team Valentina is cooking up. What that team will be called hasn’t yet been revealed but our money’s on the Thunderbolts, a crew of reformed villains who were once led by none other than Baron Zemo in the comics.