Scarlet Spider #8

I'll confess to being a complete shill and buying "Scarlet Spider" #8 for the sole purpose of reading the adventures of the Rangers, the Texas-based superhero team that existed before "Civil War," but traces its current incarnation back to "Avengers: The Initiative." I'm disappointed Armadillo isn't among the team, but that's understandable given his recent return to criminal activities. What readers get here, however, is an adventure pitting Scarlet Spider against Firebird, Living Lightning, Texas Twister, Shooting Star, Red Wolf and a new, apparently alien, character dubbed Fifty-One.

Chris Yost uses a time-tested comic book cliche to set the team up against Scarlet Spider, and wonderfully defines the Rangers, both factually and through the heavily opinionated and prejudicial views of Scarlet Spider within the first four pages. There's plenty of action as Scarlet Spider tries his best to overcome the odds stacked against him. Yost's depiction of Scarlet Spider hardly makes the character someone worth cheering for, but when the bad guy looming in the background is tied to Roxxon Oil, all opposition is worthy of backing. Roxxon was a nasty piece of work for Marvel back in the 1970s and 1980s and with folks complaining every time they fill up a vehicle, it seems only fitting that an oil company should be causing other grief as well. The resulting story, filled with C-list characters and villains hip-deep in a classic set-up, has a throwback feeling to it that juices up the fun.

The art on "Scarlet Spider" #8 is unlike anything I associate with Khoi Pham. I'm most familiar with Pham's work on "Mighty Avengers" and his work here is less detailed and considerably more stylized. Unfortunately, that lack of detail becomes a hindrance in certain scenes and makes the art appear unfinished or hurried. It occasionally leads to some difficult to decipher storytelling choices, like when Scarlet Spider is falling during the battle. I'm not sure exactly what takes him out, but it's pretty severe. Those occurrences are easily dismissed as the bulk of the artwork follows a straightforward story and features wildly distinguishable characters.

I haven't sampled "Scarlet Spider" before now, but as long as the Rangers are around, I plan to keep reading. Like Jeff Parker with "Agents of Atlas," Chris Yost really shines through when writing characters that need a little more attention. "Scarlet Spider" #8 is a quaint refresher of why I enjoy reading comics.

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