Justin Jordan claims that what became the new series The Family Trade was started as a joke between him and Nikki Ryan about her family all being international assassins. The finished product has, as Jordan writes in the afterword of the first issue, bred and combined with others to become the strange and marvelous steampunk/alternate timeline world of the Floating Republic of Thessala and its inhabitants- including The Family, a secret organization of spies and assassins.

Our heroine, Jessa Wynn, is the youngest member of The Family, living through a time of turmoil when corrupt politicians prey on the tensions between Thessala’s ruling families and its common people. In this first issue, she shows herself to be smart and skilled- but inexperienced and lacking the ability to see the big picture, as her mentor puts it.

Jordan and Ryan introduce Jessa’s world with interspersed flashbacks and narration from Jessa throughout. They put a lot of effort in trying to balance the backstory needed to understand the environment with the emerging conflict Jessa finds herself in the middle of. However, since Jessa isn’t seeing the big picture, will we find later that there are pieces of history that she’s overlooked?

They also include some interesting modern parallels with the character of Stagger Berghhardt, a “moronic blowhard” that’s become popular thanks to his appeals to the forgotten common man who’s tired of all of the freeloaders on welfare… his pleas to “make the float glorious again”… strangely familiar, but I can’t quite place it.

Artwork by Morgan Beem is gorgeous; the watercolor style lends itself well to giving Thessala a smooth look, combining modern suits and gunmen with rickshaw carriages and victorian-esque architecture. I especially love Beem’s design for Jessa- her hair is AMAZING. It also seems like that hair would be really identifiable so, is it a really good choice for a spy/assassin?

The next issue comes out November 15, so take the opportunity to check out this new series and see what the alternate-past’s future holds.

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