Trouble by Mark Millar Hardcover – 1 Jun 2011
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The plot of Trouble involves two 17-year-old brothers and two female friends making separate trips to work in the Hamptons for the summer. They meet up, have romantic/sexual relationships with each other, and deal with the consequences. Much of the promotion for Trouble seems to focus on the supposed controversy about Marvel releasing a book with sex as a major theme and frequent occurrence. I don't know whether to give Marvel credit for taking this risk - it strikes me as at least a little calculated - but this is new territory for them. Since far more risqué comics have been produced for years by many other major companies, and Marvel has long since recognized that their core audience is much older than it used to be, I don't see what the big deal is. There's no nudity, and certainly nothing titillating in here, unless generically good-looking, idealized characters talking not-very-explicitly about the sex they're having is your idea of arousing (if not for hair color, I wouldn't have been able to tell the overly-muscled brothers or the two main girls apart.)
Therein lies the fatal flaw with this book. Terry Dodson draws the characters, and the whole book for that matter, the same way he draws superhero comics. But Trouble is not a superhero comic, and it is not entirely unprecedented. It's written like an independent comic - much like those by Adrienne Tomine, Charles Burns, Chester Brown, Debbie Drechsler, Seth, e.g. - which tells a totally plausible story meant to appeal to the emotions and intellects of fairly mature readers. Terry doesn't seem to grasp this, and his over-the-top art took me write out of the narrative. By the time I realized the comic wasn't meant to be a silly, hormone-charged romp, it was too late. I didn't take any of the characters or their problems seriously. The protagonists look like superheroes without the costumes. Their facial expressions feel inauthentic. The perspective changes and action lines and other standard superhero comic tropes imply a level of action and slapstick that simply isn't in the script.
While I'm normally a fan of the Dodsons, Terry reveals some serious limitations here. His art is not at its best, even by his own standards, but he clearly lacks ability to convey a wide range of genuine emotions in his art. He's good at drawing fun, pretty scenes, with attractive people bouncing around light-heartedly (Yes, even when it's superheroes fighting monsters.) He should stick to that.
I wouldn't mind seeing Mark Millar try something like this again, though, so long as he chooses the artist(s) based on their storytelling ability, not how sexy their characters look.
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
In the 5th part of the story I am so confused about the characters I had to look back to see who was who. Ben's personality seems to change from unsure (sensitive guy) to confident. Whereas Richie begins taking Ben's interest in fixing cars, loses the mustang and becomes more of the sensitive type, staying home working with his dad, and writing letters to Mary. This change is quite abrupt. The only thing that transitions us into this change is some weak dialogue i.e. May says Richie has written her but she hasn't answered his letters, and Ben is driving the "'stang" and has a hot new girlfriend. I find the transition, weak and hard to believe.
I feel like I wasted more time trying to figure out who was who in order to make sense of the ending than I spent enjoying the story. I feel cheated, or maybe my expectations were too high.
Although I haven't read a great deal of graphic novels/comics I can say this: If you are looking for hot chicks I would recommend the Danger Girl series. If your looking for a complicated deep interesting story line with good characters, controversy, and even some sexual tension I recommend Watchman.
As far as Amazon is concerned, I am happy with their service the book was received in great condition and shipped within a reasonable amount of time.
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