Pull List: The Body-Swapping, Fantasyland, Awesomeness of Crosswind and Moonstruck

Oh Image, how I’ve missed you! It’s been ages since the biggest name in indie publishing has released something new that really excited me. Sure, a lot of their ongoings are permanent staples on my shelves, but I was more ready for something brand spanking new than I realized. That drought is at long last over. This summer, Image Comics has delivered two fantastic new ongoing series, Crosswind and Moonstruck.

Within moments of hearing about these two series, I had an order into my local independent comic book shop. Now that I have them in my grabby little hands, I can assure you my untameable eagerness was well worth it. Both take new tacks on old tropes, both are gorgeous to look at and wickedly fun to read, and both will leave you begging for the next issue.

 

Crosswind

With just enough preamble to ground the plot, Crosswind takes no time in getting straight to the action. Cason Bennett is a Chicago hitman with killer good looks and a swagger as sharp as a knife. Something shady is going on with his boss, and a conspiracy seems to be brewing in the background. Across the country in Seattle, Juniper Blue is a put upon housewife. Her husband is cheating on her, her stepson is an angry brat, and her skeezy teen boy neighbors get their rocks off by constantly sexually harassing her. Out of nowhere, a sinister someone says a curse and Case and June swap bodies. Issue #1 ends without any explanation or fallout—talk about a cliffhanger!

The two protags make for a fascinating contrast and intriguing comparison. June is as attractive as Case, but where he’s overly confident in himself and his abilities, she’s so been so beaten down by the men in her life that she hunches over to make herself as small and unobtrusive as possible. Cason is a man of action falling deeper into a hole he may not be able to dig himself out of. The actions he’s forced to take before his swap test his loyalty to his organization. He isn’t so much acting as being pushed around like a pawn. June isn’t an assassin, but she’s just as much of a pawn to more powerful men. Heartless men come at her from all sides, but where Case has his gun and his effortless cool to back him up, June has nothing.

I, for one, can’t wait to watch June work through her emotional distress with Case’s gun as he punishes vile men for mistreating June. Cason-as-Juniper can finally stand up for herself and take on all those assholes trying to break her. Juniper-as-Cason has the chance to become stronger, emotionally and physically, and fight back against inequity. Telling a macho man to shut up and get back in the kitchen and giving a beleaguered woman a gun and a reason to shoot it will make for very interesting blowback.

Really, I don’t even need to talk about how great the writing is. I mean, it’s Gail Simone. Of course the story is stellar. Simon Bowland’s lettering is spot on. The bolding of certain words as a rhythm to the dialogue so you can almost hear the characters speak. And the staccato speech bubbles and text boxes ramp up the tension and keep the story moving at a rapid fire pace. The real star here is Cat Staggs. Her work is as cutting and compelling with a vivid, cinematic quality to it. Simply put, her art is phenomenal. Truly, I wouldn’t change a thing about this issue. To me, it’s abso-bloody-lutely perfect.

Writer: Gail Simone; illustrator: Cat Staggs; letterer: Simon Bowland; production: Carey Hall. Image published the first issue of this new ongoing series in June 2017, and the second is scheduled for July 26.

 

Moonstruck

In a world where magic and fantasy are the norm, Moonstruck tells the story of a lesbian Latina werewolf named Julie who has heart-eyes for the yet to be seen Selena. Julie’s best friend is Chet, a queer centaur barista, and she pals around with a medusa, vampire bat boy, and an oracle. The cast is diverse as all get out, everything from skin color to gender identity to body shape. While there are hints about darker things to come, the story is largely about the blooming relationship between Julie and Selena and Julie’s insecurities about her wolfy nature. So far the story is light on action and heavy on introducing the characters, but it’s an angle that works in Moonstruck’s favor. A story like this, I don’t want it bogged down in big set pieces. I want to take my time with Julie and Selena and their weird world.

Grace Ellis got her professional start on Lumberjanes, and the heart that makes that series so wonderful is here on Moonstruck. Her dialogue is refreshingly candid without being crass or cruel. By the end of the first issue, I felt like I’d been BFFs with Julie and Chet for years. I’m a sucker for complicated relationship plots (whether romantic or platonic), and just the little taste we’ve had so far of Ellis’ story suggests it’ll be a good one. Clayton Cowles’ lettering is top notch as always. Really digging the font choice.

But it’s Shae Beagle whose praises I really want to sing. For a newbie who was still attending Columbus College of Art and Design when they got this gig, Beagle has the feel of a seasoned comics artist. They have a distinct, adorable style that perfectly fits with Ellis’ script. Their art is expressive and playful. Anyone who can have such a strong handle on coloring this new to the game is worth respecting. I’m going to enjoy watching their career grow.

Honestly, I’m a bit surprised a comic like Moonstruck landed at Image rather than BOOM! Box. This delightful all-ages queer fantasy series is right up BOOM!’s alley. Well, regardless of who publishes it, I’m just glad it exists. Like with Goldie Vance, Misfits, and Kim & Kim, I smiled through the entire reading (and re-reading, and re-re-reading…). Consider me hooked.

Writer: Grace Ellis; artist: Shae Beagle; letterer: Clayton Cowles; editor/designer: Laurenn McCubbin; guest artist/SDCC variant cover: Kate Leth. Image published the first issue of this new ongoing series in July 2017, and the second is scheduled for August 23.

Alex Brown is a teen librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

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