Writers: Justin Jordan & Nikki Ryan
Artist: Morgan Beem
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: A nation that came into being through a fierce sense of autonomy and independence falls into a complacency where a rich blowhard playing to those notions by preaching isolationism and that those responsible for the current decline of the nation were “undesirables” from the outside. Then there’s the old chestnut that this particular nation is actually a man-made island state in the middle of the Atlantic started by rogue naval forces and that now acts as an intermediary between the Old and New Worlds and that has a clandestine group known as “The Family” that tries to stop people like the aforementioned blowhard in a nice suit from disturbing the relative peace the nation enjoys. Okay, that second part may not exactly ring any bells, and that’s because the nation in question that enjoys both those fun facts about it is called Thessala, or more commonly known as “The Float,” and is the backdrop of this Justin Jordan/Nikki Ryan/Morgan Beem collaborative, THE FAMILY TRADE from Image Comics.

The main thing that THE FAMILY TRADE is about in this issue, besides not-so-subtle political similes, is world building. Monologue world-building, mind you; Jordan and Ryan go through great lengths to make this a very personable infodump about the setting and history of Thessala and THE FAMILY trade through the thoughts of its protagonist, Jessa, but it is a lot of world building up front. We open with Jessa in action, climbing one of Thessala’s high spires to do her business, which she kindly lets us know is “Family business” after the fact of what she’s there to accomplish hundreds of feet in the air, and that’s an execution job on the blowhard she perceives to be dragging Thessala as a nation in a bad direction. The Family she is a part of is known to do such things in order to keep the daily order if someone amongst elite (called “The Clans”) and just below them threaten such a thing, which Jessa takes Stagger Berghardt (i.e. the blowhard) to be. And while she may be alarmed at what Stagger is spewing and dejected by her inability to finish the job in an important character building moment, there are forces at play that think she may have being too rash, much to her chagrin.

That kind of dynamic is what I do think THE FAMILY TRADE will start evolving more into as it progresses, but for right now, one issue in, it’s a lot of promises and character building and I’m fine with that. There’s a bit of majesty that is imposed upon The Float as it stands is thanks to her perspective on it from it’s highest points to its canals and, of course, because of how artist Morgan Beem renders it. For a place that is essentially a “Pirate favela” in how it’s a man-made island with buildings just stack and flowing onto each other from an elevated center point down to ship harbors, it just looks magnificent. Beem’s got what looks to be a somewhat European style of comic art with a watercolor finish and it just gives The Float a calm and rustic look, which compliments the seamy underbelly that Jessa is both a part and regulator of in her own way due to her Family ties, even if we don’t know exactly what that means since her and a rendezvous with her uncle, Christian, and another player in all of this known as “The Bookmaker” are where we’re exposed to the most of it for this issue. Also, the Bookmaker apparently has a street network of cats and is the best new character of the year.

Overall, it would be hard for me to say I’m “blown away” by this debut because it’s just so much in the vein of being a big crash course of the world it takes place in, but I am highly intrigued by the world it takes place in. Jordan and Ryan have given us a lead that is actually pretty “adorable” I guess in how quirky she is for a character that scales towers and contemplates killing a political figure because that’s the lineage she’s a part of. The push and pull of those politics and what it will do to her personality, as she’s very much a person that is sold on the history and importance of being “Family” but we are shown immediately isn’t sold on the dirtier parts of what being Family entails. You can sense there’s a freedom fighter’s heart in Jessa but whether she will give into the violence and corruption some of the more infamous figures of that kind in our history have befallen. The push and pull of her sense of duty to what she was born into and how it/her can serve the people on the ground around her, as well as the actual machinations of her peers pushing down on her, could be a highly compelling story to unfold depending on how our creative team takes these aspects. Just the potential of it all, and what we have seen execution wise in this debut, leaves me feeling pretty good about THE FAMILY TRADE and it sticking around on my pull list once I’ve given it the standard first arc I give every new comic book I try.

Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to AICN COMICS and now at MLMILLERWRITES.COM. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to – funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He’s a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn’t the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.