Writer: Gail Simone
Illustrator: Cat Staggs
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Image Comics
From the fearsome combination of writer Gail Simone (Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman, Batgirl) and illustrator Cat Staggs (Adventures of Supergirl, Wonder Woman ’77) comes Crosswind, a darkly humorous and violent body-swap story. Cason Bennett is a professional killer, used to an expensive and brutal lifestyle, whereas Juniper Blue is a downtrodden suburban housewife, living in an unhappy marriage. Their separate worlds come crashing together when a mysterious third party performs a body swap at a crucial juncture. Juniper finds herself arms-deep in blood, bodies, treachery and psychopaths, whilst Cason sets about taking revenge on the bullies of both Juniper and her step-son Kelly. Unfortunately, Cason is dogged by a vindictive killer named Cruz, who doesn’t care what body he is in. Can Juniper learn to live an entirely alien life in time to stay alive, and can Cason make the perfect dinner for his husband’s boss?
Minor Spoilers Follow!
Gail Simone has an excellent writing history, and is skilled at making sure characters have their own quirks, patterns of speech, and stand out from each other. As such, both Cason and Juniper are engaging as protagonists, and are supported by an impressively diverse cast of secondary characters. Cason is an arrogant and murderous piece of work, who likes his extravagant lifestyle and all the excesses that come with it. Unfortunately, that also means he operates on a knife-edge with the other killers in his cabal, all under the watchful eye of their boss, Randolph. Juniper however is quite the opposite, a downtrodden, harassed and abused housewife who is scared of her unpleasant husband, and unable to connect with her step-son. Just as both characters encounter a serious problem, they are swapped, leaving Juniper to clean up an accidental murder caused by Randolph’s idiot son Siggy, whilst Cason has to make a meal to impress his husband’s boss. The initial shock is written superbly, and whilst there are several fish out of water moments, both adapt to their new situation admirably (bonus points for Juniper using her household cleaning skills to dispose of bloody evidence). Cason, in Juniper’s body, is far more capable of defending herself (and inspiring her step son) and the story is laced with black humour as revenge is inflicted on just about everyone that had harassed Juniper. Kelly, her step-son, also gets some character development, as Cason’s brazen confidence brushes off onto him, allowing him to finally express his real feelings. Juniper in Cason’s body is also far more perceptive and diplomatic, impressing both Cason’s girlfriend Mika and talking herself out of many close scrapes, even with Randolph himself at one point. It’s not long before both Cason and Juniper meet up, and have to discuss their unique situation with each other, and with the thoroughly confused people in their lives. Unfortunately, Cruz, forever the opportunist, finds out crucial information about Cason, and sets about trying to dismantle his reputation; in this case, through assault and murder. This leads to a violent showdown, and both Cason and Juniper have a real chance to test their resolve, as well as their trust in one another.
Whilst the mysterious antagonist behind events swapped these two with malevolent intent, whilst trying to get some sort of misguided revenge, throughout the story it seems that the body swap might have actually been beneficial for them both. This is demonstrated in the writing; the story is gloriously over the top in terms of violence and bad language, but under the surface it is pleasingly complex. There are strong themes of identity, especially regarding gender, and all the main characters are far more than just a stereotype; even Cruz has a solid reason for a large amount of his hatred. Smartly-written dialogue allows Cason and Juniper to be easily identified, regardless of which body they are in, and keeps the story flowing at a breakneck pace. Even the fantasy elements are incorporated well, and fit snugly alongside the action. This sets an impressive precedent for future volumes of Crosswind, and it looks like the unfolding story is in safe hands.
The art by Cat Staggs is impressive, and works well for this story. Characters are extremely detailed, and you can see every expression and every action. Panel placement is dynamic, changing per page, and ensuring that fast-paced scenes can be read quickly without missing a single detail. This even includes panels layered onto panels, which keeps every page fresh. Colours are rich and complex, with each scene featuring a broad mix intricate shading, ambient themes, and bright points of colour to highlight individual panels. Lettering is also inventive, and used sparingly to add emphasis, whilst dialogue is easily read and followed across the pages. There are also some nice post-story features, including alternate covers, and an entertaining text conversation courtesy of Kelly. Simone and Staggs work well together, and hopefully this is the start of many more projects to come.
Crosswind is a thoroughly entertaining, and darkly comedic, story of revenge and identity. Well-written and impressively drawn, it is definitely worth reading, and future volumes are an absolute must-have.
Crosswind Vol. 1 TP is available now from Image Comics.