After reading comics for well on five years now, there are certain creators whose work I’ve come to trust implicitly. Whether or not the basic pitch feels like something I’d be into, I’m willing to give it a try on principle.
Gail Simone is one of those writers, so when I heard she’d be writing a new high-stakes thriller series about an assassin and a housewife who get body-switched, I knew I was going to buy the first issue no matter what. But now that I’m halfway into the series, I’m finding myself wondering how she is going to wrap it up in a satisfying way.
Spoilers after the jump!
To expand on the basic premise I just mentioned, Crosswind follows browbeaten and downtrodden housewife Juniper Blue, as well as jackassish, devil-may-care assassin Cason Bennett, as they are cursed by a mysterious old man such that their souls are switched into each others’ bodies. The first issue sets up their characters and situations as they are usually, in their own bodies, with the actual body-switching happening at the end. The following two issues deal with the aftermath of the transfer, as the two very different people discover that their own skill sets are useful in ways that they never would have suspected. But as time goes on, the people around Juniper and Cason are growing more and more suspicious about the suddenly-odd behavior of the people they thought they knew, and time could be running out for them to figure out how to switch back.
What’s most interesting to me about this series is that I almost didn’t read past the first issue. While I said that I trust Gail’s writing, and I stand by that in general, the first issue dealt with the shitty treatment Juniper sustains at the hands of her husband, son, and the teen boys in her neighborhood, from verbal abuse to sexual harassment, in such a realistic way that I felt deeply uncomfortable when I finished reading it, and wasn’t sure where the story would go from there that could end in Juniper not stuck in this situation. In the next two issues, Cason-as-Juniper manages to win the respect of all three as well as her husband’s boss through judiciously applied violence as well as more male-coded behavior (cursing, drinking, crass jokes) in a series of scenes that feel very vindicating in the moment. However, I still worry for Juniper’s future after she’s switched back, because it’s not actually her standing up to these louts, it’s a dude with major self-defense skills who happens to be wearing her body at the time, and she’s the one who will have to deal with the more lasting effects of Cason’s quick fixes — whether they be her husband punishing her for being too uppity or her neighbor calling the cops because “Juniper” broke the neighbor kid’s hand with a sautee pan for sexually harrassing her.
At the same time, Juniper-as-Cason is not having an easy time of it, because she switched into Cason’s body right at the scene of one of his hits. Dealing with a bunch of assassin intrigue with no knowledge of what’s actually going on is more than challenging, and it’s especially stressful because, while the men in her regular life are all jackasses, none of them are jackass hitmen with short tempers and many guns. That said, at the same time we see that her domestic skills are valued in the hitman crowd in a way that they were not in her home life; her ability to get out tough stains, as well as just to clean things thoroughly in general, leads to effusive praise for so effectively wiping away the evidence that someone had just been brutally murdered, and coming from an abusive relationship, she’s had to learn to be good at defusing stressful interactions in a way that doesn’t blame the other person.
On one hand, it’s really getting into some fascinating territory in terms of the way gendered skills and behaviors are valued. The comic has the potential, between the two characters, to really unpack what we think about gender and how we value gender-coded behaviors. But where I think it gets tricky is that the Cason and Juniper are still performing their own gendered skills, just within a different-gendered body. While the people around them may be surprised or impressed or discomfited by the change, Cason isn’t being forced to learn the value of female-coded skills (he scoffs at the dinner-party prep as being too easy) and Juniper isn’t able to tap into the more traditionally masculine-coded aggression or assertion that is Cason’s bread and butter in a way that lets her vent her frustrations or learn to stand up for herself. Hopefully, before they’re switched back, Cason-as-Juniper will have a rude awakening that leaves him with an understanding of exactly how hard being a housewife can be (especially one in an abusive relationship), and Juniper-as-Cason will learn to seize each day with the confidence of a mediocre white man (although Cason is, in fairness, at least half-Cuban).
All of the uncomfortableness of the storyline is brought to a fever pitch by the art for the series, which is really something else. Artist Cat Staggs uses a combination of weird after-effects and filters over a practically photorealistic drawing style to evoke the same tense and discomfiting feeling that the writing does, leaving the reader doubly on edge throughout each issue. It’s the perfect complement to the writing and, however the series ends, I’m looking forward to seeing Cat’s work on other projects in the future.
Gail and Cat are planning Crosswind to be a limited series with six issues, so hopefully we’ll see a satisfying conclusion to the story! With the fourth issue coming out this week, there’s not much time left to unravel what happened to Cason and Juniper or to undo all the trouble the body-switching has caused in the first place. Whatever happens, I’m in it for the long haul, and hope that my faith in Gail’s writing remains well-placed.
Hear more from Lady Saika on Character Reveal, the podcast she cohosts with BrothaDom!