Warning: If you read Trouble, you will never look at Aunt May the same way again. That’s right, Peter (Spider-Man) Parker’s saintly Aunt May gets up to some seriously ribald behavior in this controversial miniseries from Mark Millar and Terry Dodson. To say fans had mixed reactions to this series, collected here in one book, is a vast understatement.
Set some years ago (this being comics, the exact timing is vague, but suffice to say May is a very young woman), Trouble finds best friends May and Mary venturing out to the Hamptons for the summer. They assure their parents that the local parish priest is going to meet them right when they get off the bus --- and really, they both look the picture of American wholesomeness --- but in reality, the two girls are eager to flirt with boys. Brothers Ben and Richie are also there for the summer, and they’re more than happy to do the flirting with the pretty girls.
If this were a ’60s comic, it would all add up to a scorching (but PG-rated) romance book. But this is now, and there’s very little innocence to be found here. Ben and May hit the sheets first, but good girl Mary wants to wait a little longer --- something that frustrates Richie, even though he agrees to it. Still, his wait isn’t a very long one, and eventually the two couples are all off to the carnal races.
Comics fans know we can eventually expect to hear the pitter-patter of Peter Parker’s little feet from all this --- and even if you didn’t, the title “Trouble” ought to clue you in that somebody’s going to be in a family way --- so it’s no surprise that eventually a pregnancy test comes back positive. But that’s only one (relatively minor in the grand scope of things) problem the four young people face in the book, and therein lies the controversy. You will have some conflicting emotions while reading Trouble. That is the point, of course.
The ultimate question, though, is whether all the Trouble is worth it. That is, does the story hold up on its own and does it do more than just present a new portrait of Aunt May for little more than shock value? Those are difficult questions to answer. Aunt May --- who has always been presented as the epitome of virtue, with an almost nun-like vow of poverty and devotion to goodness—is a much loved character. But doesn’t she deserve to be human too? And, regardless of how one acts during their younger years, can’t we all become saintly if we put our minds to it?
That’s pretty much beside the point in this case, however. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t quite live up to the controversy, or the hype. The characters are a little too one-dimensional, the dialogue a little too stiff, and the story a little too rapidly paced to really evoke the full breadth of human emotions it wants to stir. Yes, there is much to provoke thought and debate here. And yes, the actions of the principal characters do ring true somewhat of human foibles. But the emotional clincher, the real grasp of human nature that would bring this entire story home and give it the depth that justifies the hullabaloo, is missing.
Reviewed by John Hogan on June 1, 2011