Trouble is a story set in the Marvel Comics universe, published in 2003 by their Epic Comics imprint.
The five-issue series follows the adventures of brothers Ben and Richie, and best friends May and Mary. The four, along with numerous other youths, meet at a resort during summer work and hook up, Ben with May and Richie with Mary. However, their sexual misadventures end up taking more dramatic turns that change their lives forever when the negative effects of such a lifestyle begin to catch up to them.
What makes Trouble particularly infamous is that it was apparently meant to be a prequel to the Spider-Man universe; Ben and May are Peter Parker's uncle and aunt, and Richie and Mary are his parents. The premise and subsequent plot reveals about Spider-Man's family resulted in it being widely unaccepted and ignored by fans and creators alike.
Trouble provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: When May's freaking out about her pregnancy, she fears for her and her mother suffering her father's wrath.
- Age Lift: In the main comic, Ben and May Parker are both about twenty years older than Richard and Mary. However, this comic portrays them all as being in the same age group. This only occurs so that the infamous teen pregnancy twist can happen.
- Ambiguous Time Period: As Anachronism Stew below explains, the series seems to take place in the late '70s, but it isn't clear. Anachronistic pop culture references aside, the ages of the characters doesn't help. The series was published in 2003, and if it was meant to take place in the late '70s, the birth of Peter Parker in this story would put him at his mid 20s or so. However, in the main Marvel universe by this time, Peter had married Mary-Jane, gone through secondary school, and was working as a high school teacher; even accounting for Comic-Book Time, it seems more reasonable that Peter is at least in his late 20s and more likely somewhere in his 30s. To say nothing that if May was a teenager at this time, she'd be in her 40s in 2003, but she's typically depicted as much older.
- Canon Discontinuity: Marvel made vague comments that suggested it was stricken from canon or never in canon in the first place. Millar tried to make it canon to the Ultimate Marvel universe via references to Bucky Barnes still being alive (as Ultimate Bucky became a writer post-WWII and it was written before Captain America: Winter Soldier revealed that the classic Bucky was still alive as the titular Winter Soldier), but ultimately it got revealed as a comic in-universe in the Ultimate universe.
- Domestic Abuse: May, fearing her dad's reaction to pregnancy, fears he'll take his anger out on her or her mother.
- Driven to Suicide: May at one point considers suicide over dealing with becoming a teen mom with a devout fundamentalist father at home. Mary offers her a solution.
- Family Relationship Switcheroo: The infamous part of the story and the reason it's so reviled by both fans and creators — attempting to retcon that May was Peter's biological mother via an affair she and Richard engaged in, and Mary took the baby as her own to avoid May being in trouble with her fundamentalist father.
- At one point the four go swimming, with May skinny-dipping.
- Aside from the photo-covers (see above), the series also had "special" covers, which were blatantly this.
- Good Angel, Bad Angel: May has such a moment when she considers aborting what'd become Peter Parker.
- Grumpy Old Man: Mr. Shelby, the manager of the resort, seems to like being mean just to be mean to the kids and keep them from having fun as much as he can. At one point, even his wife calls him out on being such a killjoy.
- Hormone-Addled Teenager: Pretty much every teenage character in the series is constantly looking to get laid. A major reason Richie cheats on Mary with May is because Mary won't sleep with him.
- Idiot Ball: May has a firm grasp on this when she has sex multiple times (and on at least one occasion without using protection) knowing, and even telling Ben about it, how easy the women in her family are to impregnate. Despite this, she still acts shocked when she discovers she's pregnant. Admittedly, May's justification for all this is because she and Mary visited a fortune teller who said nobody would ever call May mom, thus May interprets that to mean she'll never get pregnant. However...
- In Name Only: The interpretations of May, Ben, Mary and Richard do not resemble the canon versions of the characters in any way. And aside from the characters' names and a few vague references, the story itself has no larger connection to the Spider-Man mythos or the Marvel universe as a whole.
- Karma Houdini: The jerkass hotel patron who belittles May by the poolside. When we think she retaliates against him, turns out it's just an Imagine Spot and she holds her tongue for the sake of keeping her job. Ben tries to fight him in a restroom, but ends up getting beaten up instead and we don't see the patron for the reminder of the story.
- Loophole Abuse: See Prophecy Twist. The fortuneteller's predictions for May and Mary come true in a roundabout way.
- Present-Day Past: With no specific year pinned down, the series is awash in '60s and '70s pop culture references that don't all gel properly. Trying to line up the references to the Ford Mustang (1964), Scooby Doo (1969), Disney World (1971), and Reese's Pieces (1977), implies the comic takes place in the late '70s. However, one scene has Richie and Ben discussing the in-universe recent increase in comic prices to 12 cents, which was in the early '60s; by the '70s, the price was up to 15 cents.
- Prophecy Twist: A fortune teller foretold that Mary would be a mother before she was twenty, but no-one would ever call May "mom". Mary presumes this means she'll get pregnant as a young mother, while May thinks it means she'll never have children. In actuality, May gets pregnant and Mary passes the baby off as hers; Mary becomes a mother without getting pregnant, and May has a child who, being raised by her future sister-in-law, will think May is his aunt.
- Spared by the Adaptation: As mentioned under Canon Discontinuity, this was written before Captain America: Winter Soldier retconned that Bucky Barnes was still alive as the titular Brainwashed and Crazy Winter Soldier, thus the Bucky of the mainstream Marvel Universe was canonically dead at the time.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Even the most casual Spider-Man fan knows that Richard and Mary will die in an plane crash two or three years after the comic's ending and he'll spend most of his life being raised by May and Ben.
- Stealth Sequel: Or prequel in this case, but as noted, it was advertised as a random romance comic, but the names of the main characters gives away that it was an attempt to retcon the details of Spider-Man's birth.
- Teen Pregnancy: Part of the reason it was hated: trying to retcon that Peter Parker was the product of an affair Richard and May had as teens.
- Wham Line: If you don't know the story's ties to the Spider-Man mythos going in, the "face it, tiger" line will likely clue you in.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: May Parker is a senior citizen in the main comic, and her Ultimate counterpart was middle-aged. If May had gotten pregnant with Peter when she was a teenager, then she would barely be in her mid-thirties when he first became Spider-Man. A similar issue is with Richard and Mary. In the Marvel Universe, they were secret agents when they died. They died when Peter was a baby, so about two or three years after this comic. How could they be experienced secret agents if they were in their teens/early twenties?