Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Family Trade Issue 1 - Review

It's a family affair

Written by: Justin Jordan & Nikki Ryan
Art by: Morgan Beem
Letters by Rachel Deering
Publisher: Image
Review by: Andrew McAvoy

The artwork of comic books often plays second fiddle to the writing in terms of review work. So let's try to correct that slightly by giving Morgan Beem her full dues for the amazing work throughout this first issue of The Family Trade. Her work is so good in fact that this issue would be worth owning outright based on her magnificent work in and of itself. It is a double blessing then that her work is complimented by a superb high-concept story from Jordan and Ryan which has been thoroughly thought-out and planned. With both the story and the art firing on all cylinders lets jump in and find out what it's all about.

The book opens with a very Bondesque depiction of a female assassin (Jessa) finding her way to her target. She stops to admire the view from her position at the top of a tall building and we are told through her narrative commentary that she is gazing out upon The Free Republic of Thessala, aka The Float. Jessa tells us that her family's job is "to make sure the Float keeps floating". Just as she's about to strike her fatal blow with a knife the target wakes up and she is forced to flee. Or more precisely she crashes out of the window, down the roof, and manages to bounce herself into the surrounding sea below. As she emerges from a tributary onto a street within The Float, an alleycat (known as a "Tom" in the book) guides her to safety.

The book then cuts to a potted history of the city illustrated by Beem in sepia watercolour. We are told that the Free Republic of Thessala, functions as a sort oceanic Switzerland – and that as a neutral zone the world’s trade and politics sort of flow through it, deals are brokered and truces sealed with a handshake on its terrain. The Family is an underground organisation that works in the shadows to ensure that the leading parties within the territory of the Float, known as the Clans operate within a careful balance, and that no one Clan can dominate. To do this The Family steals, lies and kills, as required.

As we snap out of the background and back into color, our assailant gets led by the Tom into safety, within a building occupied by her uncle, and The Bookmaker. We are told that the Bookmaker more or less runs the Family (as well as a network of talking spy-cats known collectively as "the Toms"). He is not happy with Jessa's attempted assassination, and it transpires that her target was Stagger Berghardt, a populist politician, who wants to "Make the Float glorious again". The Bookmaker excuses Jessa but makes it clear that he will only write off a youthful mistake once. Unperturbed by the end of the book Jessa is once again on Berghardt's trail. She assures us that she isn't trying to kill him again, but the revelation she discovers leaves us not so sure...

Bits and Pieces

A stunning bit of storytelling and high class artwork lend get this Oceanic Steampunk title off to a great start. It immerses readers completely within its world within the first quarter of the book, and we are hooked straight away. The sense of mystery is preserved though and this issue gives us plenty, while still leaving us hungry for more tales of intrigue and skullduggery in The Free Republic of Thessala.


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