Crosswind Volume 1
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Cat Staggs
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Production: Carey Hall
Publisher: Image Comics
A Review by Mark Jones
Cason Ray Bennett is everything you expect a contract killer to be; ruthless, cold, violent. Crosswind opens with him killing a childhood friend on the orders of his employer. Plus, as you might expect, other killers are plotting against him so he is constantly watching his back.
Juniper Elanore Blue is a downtrodden housewife living in the suburbs. Her husband is dismissive and adulterous. Her stepson neither respects nor likes her. Even the neighbourhood teens insult her at every opportunity.
Juniper and Cason have very little in common. When they find themselves in each others’ bodies events begin to play out differently, although perhaps not as differently as you might expect. When everyone around you treats you in a certain way there is an urge to fit in and, initially, this is what Juniper and Cason try to do. Nevertheless, without the emotional connections to the people in their lives, they react in ways that the original inhabitant of the body would never have considered.
If Crosswind had followed the characters continuing in their normal lives it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as interesting. The set up of Juniper and Cason’s lives follow well trodden paths, almost clichés. By putting personalities into situations they would never normally encounter, Gail Simone and Cat Staggs manage to breathe new life into what could have been a stale genre piece.
Juniper, now in Cason’s body, brings a kindness rarely seen in the criminal underworld. Turns out they’re not the walkover they appeared to be either. Juniper begins to enjoy the respect and authority that come with their new body and wants to make the most of it while they can.
Cason, now in Juniper’s body, brings ruthlessness to suburban family life. Their husband is no longer allowed to get away with his abusiveness or adultery. Carson deals with the bullies in their stepson’s life and helps him to develop some much needed self-confidence.
Inevitably, Juniper and Cason contact each other in order to work out what’s happening. They soon realise that the situation is putting the lives of their friends and families in danger and that they need to work together to try and handle it.
I have to admit that Cat Staggs’ art style took some time to grow on me. The line work is intricate with realistic backgrounds, characters and expressions while the colour work feels more broad and bold. Initially, I found it fell on the wrong side of the uncanny valley. However, the style works particularly well when the action and violence breaks out. By the end I was more appreciative of Staggs’ work and could see its strengths for this story.
It is worth noting that the body switching is handled carefully. Gail Simone avoids cheap transphobic jokes that often feature in body swap stories. Indeed, the back matter of Crosswind includes a brief interview about transphobia and writing transgender characters between Gail Simone and Charles Battersby; actor, playwright and transgender activist. This is an interesting addition alongside the more usual sketches, variant covers and epilogues.
Crosswind Volume 1 had to work hard to win me over with a seemingly clichéd setup and an initially hard-to-love art style. But win me over it did. The impact of Juniper and Cason on each others lives shakes everything up in just the right way. The plot builds throughout and I found myself almost rushing through to find out how everything plays out.
Wait and see. Crosswind starts slowly but builds to something satisfying and I still don’t completely love the art. I can’t fully recommend it but if you like what you’ve seen and read then give it a go. Seeing Juniper and Cason grow as characters is rewarding and it’s interesting to see them learn about themselves as much as we do.