Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Cat Staggs
Publisher: Image Comics
One of the best benefits of comics is that the format allows you to easily take a known concept or storyline and modify it to an unexpected genre. Gail Simone and Cat Staggs’s Crosswind takes the idea of the good old body-swap we have seen in movies like Freaky Friday and adds a more mature tone. As a first issue, it works as mostly setup. Like a long form standup, we have a long lead into the eventual punchline that happens in the final moments. Some of that lead in has its rough patches, but overall as a first issue, it works well enough to garner interest for what is to come next.
Unlike Freaky Friday this is not a story where a mother and daughter switch bodies. In fact, the two people in this story do not know each other and come from two very different works. Case is a Chicago hitman living a life full dangerous excitement. Despite his line of work, there is evidence he is not fully comfortable with his role. In the opening moments, we see him struggling to decide if he should kill who is a lifelong friend for supposedly snitching. He clearly feels conflicted and requires an unexpected push to make a final decision.
Juniper is a middle-aged house wife living in the suburbs of Seattle. She is a Stepmom to a son that hates her and the wife of a man who does not respect her. She had dreams of doing something special with her life but she has found the most important thing she is currently in charge of is making sure dinner is ready for her jerk of a husband. Even the local kids show her little respect as they hit on her in some of the most inappropriate ways possible.
This is the type of issue that is better enjoyed when you know the premise going in. If you were to read it cold I could see it feeling very disjointed until the very end. Minus a similar framing device for both characters, there is no connecting tissue between these two. By all understanding, they know nothing of one another and most likely never met. The how and the why of this supernatural body swamp remains a mystery.
What is clear is these are two individuals that are unhappy about their current life situation and feel unable to get out. Case is somewhat better off as there are some people in his life that at least enjoy his presence. Juniper, on the other hand, has zero support from anyone. If she is not getting sexually harassed by a teenager she is getting yelled out by a family member. Gail Simone does not hold back in making her life look absolutely horrible. That is also where this issue struggled at times.
Simone’s dialog had some rather clunky and over the top moments. In the aforementioned opening scene, we see a man go from pleading for his life to drastically changing his tune for little reason. The way some of the horny teenagers talk to Juniper is utterly ridiculous. It goes well past harassment and makes you wonder why she is not calling the police immediately. Maybe there is more to this than we are aware of because there are some side comments made by her stepson that make you wonder what exactly happened to make him have such a strong disdain for her. Without that, it appears like Simone is dialing up everything to eleven to make her life look as awful as possible.
Cat Staggs’s art is not a style that will work for everyone. Tonally it fits the story well. I am not a person who typically likes heavily photo-referenced art like this. It can be off-putting looking at comic pages that appear like traces of real life people or a more advanced version of rotoscoping. Here considering this story is about the joining together of two different lives it is fitting. It is like getting the preview of the movie version of this story that is sure to come shortly in the future. There are times though where the style shows its limitations. When Staggs does actual cartoony to capture the facial reactions he is looking for it gives a very inconsistent look. He does craft some great body language. After the switch occurs it actually looks like you are seeing a man in a women’s body and vice versa. It is in those few pages where everything begins to click, and why this artistic style is key for the success of this book.
Crosswind has promise with a lot of great avenues to travel down. Every mystery has no clear answer or hint of how it will eventually be solved. How well this premise will work is still unclear and much will be learned in the second issue. For now, Staggs and Simone give us a lot to be excited for.