By Justin Jordan, Nikki Ryan & Morgan Beem
The Family Trade is an interesting new beginning in a series from Image that makes the most out of a fascinating concept, a neutral island formed out of an armada of ships that exists largely independent from various governments and as a natural meeting place for diplomacy and commerce. It’s a kind of alternate Steampunkified Venice, and it’s protected by a group of assassins who make sure that the city stays safe. This high concept is the main hook, and while there isn’t much in the way of storyline developed here, it does give you a good idea as to who the main character is and what the world that she inhabits is like.
Justin Jordan and Nikki Ryan do an effective job at introducing us to this world mostly interspaced with an action set-piece that allows the readers to see Jessa Wynn, the youngest member of the assassin family on the island, in action. The alternate history concept that puts steampunk and alchemy into the mix allows for fascinating potential to explore, and what’s here shows promising early signs that the potential can be indeed met.
The artwork here is incredible, and with every panel being painted in such great detail it really adds that extra unique feel to the book that helps make it stand out with Morgan Beem knocking it out of the park in terms of visuals, providing both pencils and colours. There is potential for a slight drawback in that painters aren’t usually the best fit to a monthly schedule, so it’s going to be interesting to see if there are any delays going forward. But for now, the art remains a key factor here in elevating this comic, which on its own, is compelling enough as it is despite its mainly exposition-related flaws. The watercolour usage is just incredible and really fits the tone of the book, too, helping it become all the more immersive.
The first issue does suffer from a few problems that most first issue of new series as imaginative as this one in that they have to introduce a whole new world to readers. That means that there’s a lot of exposition on display here against the backdrop of the story unfolding and as a result none of the characters here really are allowed to make enough of an impression apart from Jessa herself, who makes a compelling case for a character who could turn into a great new lead. There is potential created here in the side characters too, most notably a cat named Bookmaker who provides the source of information for the family of assassins.
With a defining visual style that will no doubt divide readers, The Family Trade #1 starts off on an interesting and compelling note that has enough material to keep readers coming back for more. It’s a high concept story that takes plenty of risks in an original approach both in terms of story and art, and although it’s early stages, there’s enough potential for things to only get better from here.