It seems like every other day Image Comics is coming out with fresh new series from talented creators. Case in point: The Family Trade, written by Justin Jordan and Nikki Ryan with art by Morgan Beem. Trade is set in an alternate reality where an island nation in the Atlantic Ocean is where all the important diplomacy happens. Neutral ground however, comes at a price.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
“THE FAMILY,” Part One Introducing an all-new ongoing series from the creator of LUTHER STRODE, SPREAD, and DEAD BODY ROAD! Steampunk, alchemy, and adventure meet the ocean. On an island city in a world where history didn’t quite turn out like ours, a hidden family of spies, thieves, and assassins makes sure that the world keeps going. Or they did, until Jessa Wynn, their youngest member, manages to start a civil war.
Why does this matter?
The premise of this book is compelling for a variety of reasons, though mainly, the idea of a family of assassins is an interesting one. Not just because they kill — no they do so much more — but because they bring some kind of order to things. If neutrality and balance is a must it would make sense some kind of third party overseeing it all would be necessary. This book explores that family.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
A bit of misdirection opens the issue.
This issue opens with a bit of misdirection which sets up the reader for a story about double-crosses, who to trust, and a strong female protagonist named Jessa Wynn, who we get to know as she speaks to the reader via first person captions. Jordan and Ryan write this character in a strong way as we gather her insecurities, her weaknesses, and the rest clearly. She’s new to the whole killing thing, and she serves as a good point of view for the reader since she’s still wrapping her head around this world.
The world is detailed and explained very well via her captions about halfway through the book. The concept, while political and complex, is very clear and understandable. It sets up a concept that we all probably wish we had–god knows global politics is a mess–and it makes sense that a family-run overwatch would be necessary. Enter the villain who is not unlike Donald Trump (he even looks like him) and he wants to upend that order. This, of course, puts the family in a lot of trouble as plans start to hatch here.
Morgan Beem’s art is quite pretty, utilizing watercolors to give the pages a dreamlike look, though strong pencil work keeps things in line. I really dig how Beem splashes a bit of color here and there to convey street lights or texture. It doesn’t always necessarily make sense — say, when a background has red splotches and in the next panel is just blue, but it adds a bit of life to the panels. The color seems to draw your attention in the right places and helps make this world feel somewhat otherworldly.
Killing can be hard.
It can’t be perfect can it?
This issue does a lot, maybe too much, making it at times more about exposition than plot progression or even character work. Though many characters are introduced I never got a feeling for them save for the protagonist who you can get to know via the many captions. The villain also seems a bit too on the nose when it comes to his likeness to Trump, from his speeches to his look. At this point we have little to go on with this character though he seems to have an air of power that’s unclear.
It’s noted in the summary this world has a steampunk quality, though I didn’t see much of that in this issue. So far it appears to have a mix of many styles and has not yet defined itself in that genre.
Is It Good?
This is a good first issue with a strong protagonist speaking to the reader in first person captions. You’ll be on her side while she explains the unique world and premise which makes this yet another series from Image worthy of your time.