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If the Marc Webb/Andrew Garfield Spider-Man reboot leaves you cold, Aunt May as jailbait might be your thing. BUT PROBABLY NOT. – Trouble

May 18, 2012

The upcoming Amazing Spider-Man film isn’t content to merely frustrate fans of the character with another origin story only a decade after the first film hit. No, it also seems set on changing the dynamic of the titular hero, substituting some DARK SECRETS hokum about Peter Parker’s parents for the Uncle Ben/With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility foundational ethos. FANTASTIC. For any number of reasons (*cough* Lizard design *cough*), and no matter how much more lively Andrew Garfield is when compared to the dead-eyed Tobey Maguire, I just can’t get myself worked up for this flick. Do you hear that, Sony? I, a person who writes a blog focused on nothing but comics, can’t get worked up over an upcoming Spider-Man movie. Your brand might have some issues.

With this potential train wreck on the horizon, it seems like as good a time as any to look at another odd take on the early days of Spider-Man. In this case, one when he was merely a gleam in his parents’ eyes.

I missed the Mark Millar-scripted, Terry/Rachel Dodson-artified Trouble when it first hit (2003), but I had a co-worker around that time who used to give me his copies of Wizard, and I recall reading an article about this series, a thinly veiled re-imagining — or just plain imagining — of the nubile youths of May, Ben, Mary and Richie. Yes, those are some familiar names. They’re meant to be. It was hoped that the book would re-vitalize the Romance genre, taking defibrillator pads to that long-cool corpse by cramming young versions of the Parker forbears into an ill-suited narrative. In the first issue we meet brothers Ben and Richie and best friends May and Mary as they head off to spend the summer working at a Hamptons resort and MEET THEIR DESTINIES. The premier is bookended by May (the wild child) stealing some of her father’s hooch, and, well, and then making me want to punch a hole through the comic:

Yes, a young Aunt May held a condom aloft as she purloined a hideously overused Spider-cliche. AND WE’RE OFF.

What follows is a story set in the 1970s — though nothing about it really said “70s” apart from the cars — as our young leads have their sexual awakenings. Couples are formed, surreptitious switcheroos happen, May is willing to give it up while Mary wants to wait a while, and the senses-shattering topic of teen pregnancy is addressed in a most useless fashion.

Oh, and it’s also posited, quite needlessly, that May is actually Peter’s real mother. Yes, the guilt-trip broad with the tight gray bun is a real ho here. This in particular seemed designed to generate a loud, hearty, John McEnroe “YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!”

I realize I’m giving away the store with the whole Mother May thing, but it’s a safety concern. Now you’re prepared if you ever want to read this, and you won’t karate chop the nearest karate choppable object when you come to this “revelation.” One that really means absolutely nothing, since this storyline has been thoroughly forgotten, but one that feels all the more of a waste of time because of it. (Also, don’t get me started on Aunt May apparently having aged HORRIBLY in the intervening years between Peter’s birth and his being bitten by the radioactive spider. Was she a meth addict? Did they have meth back then?)

And really, who cares about Peter Parker’s parents? Is there a more useless mother and father combo for a major character? Batman’s were murdered in front of him. IMPORTANT. Superman had two pairs, with the birth set never met but remembered, and the adopted set forming his moral worldview. IMPORTANT. Peter never knew Richard and Mary, and their only big in-continuity “appearance” came in the 1990s as android doppelgängers, an awful plotline that, fortunately for those who conceived it, was overshadowed by the roughly contemporaneous and doubly asinine clone nonsense. Again: WHO CARES?

But here we get to see teenage versions of them acting like doofuses, with interminable dialogue about sex and life and blahblahblah. Wonderful. I’ll give Millar this: he did a decent job of capturing teen-speak, in that no one with any degree of maturity can stand listening to a teenager yammer on about anything for more than ten seconds, and every two pages of this mini you’ll want to fling the installment in your hands across the room.

A guy in his mid-thirties reading the book ten years after its publication probably isn’t the demographic Marvel was hoping to tap. Granted. But Trouble was a chore for me to read, and it’s a misfire on many levels.

As repugnant a reordering as the parentage twist was, and as puerile as Millar’s script felt, it was the photo covers that are the most memorable part of the series. The girls on them — though it was assured that the models weren’t minors — looked all of fifteen years old. With the bikinis, the bare flesh and the sunglasses, it was painfully obvious that they folks behind them were going for a forbidden Lolita vibe, and every issue seemed hell-bent on out-creeping its predecessors, with pubescent oral fixations the centerpiece of the first impression everyone would get of the book in their hands. (That uber-scummy douchebag teacher that recently brainwashed and ran off with one of his students probably owned a whole stack of these comics.) You had the first one, seen up there at the top (it had a conventional variant), with its coquettish lowering of shades (the broad on the left looks a bit like Paris Hilton, but without the lazy eye). Then you had the HEY SHE’S PUTTING THE SUNGLASSES IN HER MOUTH OOOH second issue:

Then the SHE’S BLOWING A BUBBLE I WONDER WHAT ELSE SHE COULD BLOW OOOH HOT third:

The fourth was a comedown “whispering of secrets” cover, but the fifth is perhaps the most disturbing, as OH GOD ONE OF THE GIRLS LOOKS LIKE MACAULAY CULKIN:

There. Trouble. If you’ve never read it, don’t take the trouble to. HA. A lame joke for a lame book, and a perfect way to wrap this up.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. m lewis redford permalink
    May 19, 2012 6:00 am

    ‘never read it; never want to; totally agree

  2. Tom permalink
    November 26, 2012 8:14 am

    Not caring anything about Spider-Man or his history, I actually really enjoyed this book. It was aimed at female readers who enjoy teen romance novels (and the covers are similar to what you would find on some of those). The story was engaging and I found myself becoming very involved with it. I’m not into superhero comics and I love comics about real people in real situations. That’s why this was so good. Just forget it has anything to do with Spider-Man.

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