Uh Oh, Here Comes Trouble

March 14th, 2012 by | Tags: ,

Guest article by Fletcher “Syrg” Arnett.

(Quick warning to all you readers: may want to save this one for home. Some images are possibly less than work-appropriate.)

Years back, I bought, and then wrote about, a weird miniseries called Marville. It was a six-issue title that had a quasi-seventh issue. As far as I could ever tell, not finding a copy of it myself, the final issue was nothing but instructions on how to submit a pitch to the soon-to-be-relaunched Epic Comics imprint of Marvel. That relaunch would basically be about as much of a fiasco as Marville itself. I started looking around for as much information on it as I could. It seemed like a good idea – be a line that would allow for creator-owned works in the Marvel wheelhouse, and let some young upstarts work on properties which didn’t get much attention.

From what I can find, a total of fourteen issues were published under Epic before it was shut down and abandoned a year later.

I’ve looked around for any backissues, just to see what the quality of what came out was like, but the only thing I ever found, or that most people would have heard of from the line, was a Mark Millar miniseries. It was called Trouble. And I may be the only man on this Earth who liked it. (Yes, I know that the nerd-Hulk was apparently a fan in a later Ultimates story. I said our Earth for a reason, you pedant.)

I’m exaggerating a little – someone else out there has to like it. For some reason it got a hardcover trade last year, 8 after its initial publication. It’s the first time that a solicited collection of the series actually came to market. (Apparently one was announced and then quietly canned due to the book’s weak sales.) Still, it’s easily a unique work among the rest of Millar’s catalog. I’ve heard a lot of his work referred to as “popcorn flick” comics, especially since he began writing books to be turned into films directly – well, Trouble is basically “romantic comedy comics”. Or maybe something a little less mature, “teen sex comedy” comics. It’s got a real American Pie vibe to it.

And yes, just because I’m sure some of you are thinking it right now – this is the book where a young May gets teen pregnant and has a baby named Peter. I don’t hold this against the book for a single instant, since it’s pretty apparent that it’s not that May and that Peter.

No matter how much the book tries to imply it.

Let’s back up a little. The intro is quick: two brothers, Ben and Richard (“Richie”) Parker, and a pair of friends, May and Mary, are some of the staff at a resort town over the course of the summer. The teens all head off to get a little cash, and presumably meet someone cute they can fool around with over the break. Not shockingly, given that they’re four of the only people in the story with names, the duets pair off and begin getting it on over summertime. That’s your first issue of five (aptly titled “The Summer Everybody Lost It” – no prizes for guessing what “it” is here).

I guess it goes without saying this isn’t going to be a plot summary. It’s a book which kind of flops on that count, especially turning melodramatic in the final issues. No, if you came looking for a mature handling of the subjects of teen pregnancy and babies outside of wedlock, you’re kinda hosed. This book excels in keeping everything moving, and most of the movement is toward some cheap laughs.

But I think part of the charm in the entire thing is that no scene really falls flat (for me, at least). It’s either there to set something else up, make you laugh, or, later on, bring the plot to its conclusion. We don’t go fiddling around with excess characters, either – this is the Parker Brothers’ (I also wonder if the Spidey connections weren’t just so this pun could come into play) and their companions’ story, and everyone else is either setup for a gag or there to play off of in passing. My favorite moment is in the middle of issue 3, and actually it’s basically the exact center of the book.

I actually cut out a little bit to fit this onto two pages, but it’s quick, it has some buildup, and it’s got a good payoff that’s actually the crux of a lot of the plot coming together in the final issues. See, as you might expect, May and Ben pair off, leaving Mary and Richard to be the other couple in the cast. May, a preacher’s daughter, lives up to the old stereotype, being insatiable and rebellious, but Mary wants to take it slow. Eventually, Richard, in that lovely teenage way a lot of us can relate to in some fashion, decides that he can’t take this anymore, and gets it on with May, starting a weird fling between the two of them that they’re asking their partners to cover up from the other.

But eventually, May gets pregnant.

And that scene above? Yeah, that’s where everything goes to hell for the illicit streak and how they get caught, because thanks to constantly being beat down over the years, Ben Parker is sterile… so telling him about the pregnancy basically outs May as having cheated on him.

Meanwhile, there’s the fact that Mary isn’t really as much of a good girl as she seems – it’s just a weird old fortune-teller’s prophecy from a carnival making her keep it in her pants. Once it’s been disproven, she proceeds to fuck Richie for 12 hours straight, complete with panels of rockets, fireworks, and other overt imagery breaking up the timeskips.

As most of you can tell from the above panel, we wrap up with Mary helping May out, making it seem that the child belongs to her when she returns to see Richie in the winter. He knows what’s happened, and still takes the fall, making it right for everyone. Or at least as right as they want it to be. We leave off with May talking to Richie his wedding to Mary. It’s a touching little moment and brings up an earlier conversation for the ending you knew was coming.

It’s not high art, but you know? I still think it’s a pretty good teenage whirlwind romance story. Maybe I’m biased. I had a lot of stupid, stupid relationship moves as a kid, and I see some of myself in all parties. Plus… c’mon. You KNOW you did something idiotic the first time you spent time out from under your parents. Don’t deny it. It creeps up on you eventually. You just probably aimed a little lower than teen pregnancy and baby-swapping.

I’ve glossed over some of the more character driven moments, and an entire subplot near the end, because you know what? I think some of you are gonna be curious about this book now, and there are still copies of the relatively-fresh trade on Amazon you could check out. I always feel a little weird about just writing down summaries of what’s happening in a story play-by-play, and with stuff like Marville or most of the Elseworlds I can tell myself “This is out of print. This may be the only way this is possible to hear about anymore”, but it feels kinda skeezy to me to go “So this is out now, lemme tell you in detail what happened and save you X dollars”.

And besides… I know I shat on it at length all that time ago, but I will straight up say it: I would love to see plenty of Troubles and Marvilles and experiments that sometimes go awry over 99% of what comics are doing right now. You know what I can’t say about Marville? That it wasn’t ambitious. It tried for something and it failed in a lot of ways, but it was unlike any other thing I’ve read in the medium. I looked back at those posts before I wrote this, and winced. There was a guy we quoted on the final post who was fond of the book, and I realized that I am basically his equivalent on Trouble. It’s sort of a weird, through-the-looking-glass feeling to see that. (I mean the guy who liked the Iron Man scene, not the baseball dude, people who go and check.)

Anyhow, I’ll probably go back to something a little more structured with more Elseworlds soon, but this is a book I’ve enjoyed enough to buy it twice (hell, I think it may actually be the last trade I bought, I fell off the comics wagon hard in 2011), I wanted to give some praise. Mark Millar, you did right by me with this story. If you wanna do something strange like this again in between future Kick-Asses that would be pretty sweet.

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5 comments to “Uh Oh, Here Comes Trouble”

  1. Wow really great article, I may try to pick this up. I should stop thinking that every time two similar looking chicks are on a cover its the Olsen twins lol.

  2. Is there real nudity in this?

  3. (I also really liked your Marville reviews, because they let me know that book exists and I think it’s pretty decent for a Big Two book)

  4. @Don Delgado: Nah. The closest it gets, flipping through it again, is one scene where they’re skinny dipping and one of the girls is only covered by some shadows. Otherwise there’s usually a cover or something over the naughty bits.

  5. …a cover as in a sheet, not as in a censor bar. Really should have used a better word there.