REVIEW: The Family Trade #4

Once again I tackle a new series that I know nothing about. Like fans across comic shops the world over I’m stepping into this series mid-story on a whim. Here’s what I learned…

The story is about a badass assassin-type named Jessa and her efforts to recover a book. I don’t know what’s in the book or why it’s important because this issue didn’t bother to fill me in on those details. The comic also didn’t explain why Jessa is captured and questioned by a group of bad guys that look like your typical henchmen-for-hire. The henchmen are led by a shady bastard named Christian who seems to be well versed in combat himself and more than once in this issue he anticipates Jessa’s moves.

These two have a tet-a-tet about the mysterious book; afterward Jessa breaks free and the issue comes to a close. Interspersed in this issue is another conversation between a tied up woman (seems to be a lot of tied up ladies in this installment) named Oriantha and a dude and his cat. I’d love to tell you this guy’s name; he seems important to the story, but once again, that information wasn’t given in this issue. These two drone on about Jessa plans to find the book which appears to be news to the cat owner.

I was a big fan of Jordan’s previous work “Luther Strode” which he created with Tradd Moore. I suggest you get a copy of that trade ASAP; so I walked into this story expecting a lot of action and adventure. This title is much more subdued. Jordan is working with a writing partner (Nikki Ryan) on this series and I feel that the pacing is off. There is something lacking.

While it’s obvious that I think that this comic could use a recap page or even an “our story so far” paragraph on the back of the cover to help out new readers, I was left wanting when it came to the story and plot. The tale was pretty formulaic in its approach to providing details and there were no real surprises or twists to keep me engaged. While I understand the two scenes between Jessa and Oriantha were meant to mirror each other I still couldn’t find the reason in this particular issue why I should care.

But the real detriment to this title is the art. The watercolor impressionistic stylings of Morgan Beem were not my cup of tea. Jeff Lemire might want to file a lawsuit because the artwork smacked so strongly of his influence that at times that I had to go back and make sure that he didn’t have a hand in this comic. While I understand that impressionist design has its place in the comics medium I’m not sure that this was the right title for it. There are panels that are so muddled that it took me a while to figure out just what the hell I was looking at.

I can tell that Beem was going for a hybrid of Aeon Flux meets a futuristic nautical theme, but it comes off jumbled. Figures are illustrated with ridiculous proportions (tiny heads on huge shoulders, under-sized hands, characters that look crazy when they are “running”) Plus why is every character depicted with rosy red noses and cheeks? That’s not me being snippy, that is a visual fact of this artists work on this issue. Every character is denoted with rosy red cheeks and a honker that would make Rudolph the reindeer jealous.

Oh, and I hope that you don’t like having backgrounds or details in your artwork, because you won’t find any on a large number of the panels in this title. It’s sparse; underdeveloped. I know that a lot of hard work went into the art and I apologize for the hammering of Beem’s work, because I’m sure that a ton of energy went into each page, but I sincerely think that the comic looks sloppy and lazy at certain points. While I respect the artist I do not respect this work.

There are hints of brilliance in this title. They are hard to find but you can see them when you spend a moment or two to examine. The various background color schemes that are used in conjunction with each character bring a visual flare to the comic. Jessa is normally shown with a green and yellow palette, while Oriantha is surrounded by Orange and purple hues. My complaint is that these backgrounds, while colorful and visually interesting in their own right come at the expense of actual setting and environment. An artist is limited in their ability to project time and place to the reader and to sacrifice that storytelling tool in the name of aesthetic comes off as cheap and easy.

Over-all I will not being picking this title up again. It just wasn’t what I expected nor what I wanted. I’m sure that there is an audience out there for this story, but I’m not a member of that group. I know that I dogged on this comic but there is potential here, I can see that, but it may be too little too late to overhaul the necessary changes needed to make this book more appealing to the general comic buying public; and maybe Jordan and his team don’t want to break away from the groove they have going. I just know that I’m not sticking around to find out.

Final Score- 2 out of 5 stars!

The Family Trade #4
Story- Justin Jordan and Nikki Ryan
Art- Morgan Beem
Letters- Rachel Deering
Publisher- Image Comics

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