Boys Will Be Girls – Crosswind By Simone And Staggs Tackles Gender Head-On

by Hannah Means Shannon

 

Catching up on the first two issues of new Image Comics series Crosswind by the stellar team of Gail Simone and Cat Staggs has been bracing, refreshing, and given me plenty to think about. Issue #2 landed last week and I pulled out the first and second issues for a read, knowing that the concept behind the comic–a body and life swap between a suburban wife and a hitman–could be very interesting indeed, especially in the hands of an female creative team who would be looking out for the major issues likely to pop up regarding both gender and lifestyle for such different characters.

And we certainly get an exploration of those issues and then some. We meet Cason Bennett, highly trusted and well-respected hitman on a day when he’s expected to do his duty and execute an old friend who he knows is not guilty of the charges being leveled against him, and housewife Juniper Blue as she faces an equally awful, but in many ways, ordinary day dealing with pretty shocking sexist behavior from her husband, her step son, and gender-based bullying and harassment from teenage male neighbors. The phrase “boys will be boys” rings through both scenarios in a disturbing way that’s definitely something which will make you think.

In Cason’s case, he’s dealing with the nephew of a mob boss who has “oopsie” gone too far questioning a guy, and in Juniper’s case, it’s the downright abusive behavior of teen boys in a group sexually harassing her for being attractive.

And yet, “boys will be boys” runs against the grain of the premise of this story, as we find out–when Cason and Juniper switch bodies and are faced with each other’s lives and tasks under the scrutiny of a being/person who has chosen them for this supernatural/inexplicable swap. After this swap, boys will be girls and girls will be boys. This story is about as far from hokey as it could possibly be in the grip of that premise. This is down to Simone and Staggs both taking a brisk, head-on approach to just about everything in the comic, from the dialogue to the captions by Simone to the facial expressions and body postures by Staggs, who is pretty much a master in her field in presented painted realism in comics and she fully illustrates this book. Simon Bowland’s letters on this book also add to this breezy, quick-paced feel while keeping the story as clear as possible for the reader.

Without that fresh, direct feeling in the comic, the story would not have the same impact on the reader, as they might be tempted to shy away from the evidence of gender disparity being presented. The texture of the comic gives such an immediate sense of experiencing these events that it definite “gets to you” and makes you feel as nauseated by the extreme mob-based violence you’re seeing as by the silent desperation that Juniper Blue carries around.

While the first issue of Crosswind introduces us to the key characters and the initial body swap, the second issue goes all in on following Cason and Juniper as they try to carry out the basic tasks in each other’s lives. Thrown in at the deep end, and persuaded to act by the warning that if they don’t, they won’t ever return to their own bodies, they both master extremely difficult personalities and situations with a fair amount of under pressure fumbling and some pride in the outcomes.

What’s remarkable about the characterization we see in issue #2 is that both characters seem to grow from the experience. Juniper has been dreaming of adventure and a more challenging life and she’s posed with the horrific task of cleaning up a mob torture session gone wrong (well, even more wrong) and Cason has to cook and present an entire meal for Juniper’s husband’s boss. I don’t think there’s any question here but that they both liked their challenge in the end and felt more empowered for having completed their tasks.

But that’s not all the comic series is about, and issue #2 leaves us hanging, appropriately, on the bigger questions. For instance, Juniper can act as a hitman and clean up a mess, but should she? And Cason can cater to Juniper’s husband’s abysmal demands, but should he?

We can only look forward to more Crosswind to shock, disturb, and challenge us in a way that only really solid storytelling can.

Issues #1 and #2 of Crosswind are currently out. Issue #3 arrives on August 30th, 2017.