Reviewed: Crawl Space by Jesse Jacobs Published by Koyama Press, Toronto, 2017
Jesse Jacobs shares the singular experience of world building with his latest graphic novel, Crawl Space. There’s even one part of the story where he shows readers what it looks like inside his head, when he envisions squiggling lines of color flying together to coil around a set of eyes and collapse upon themselves, settle, and become a face. There’s a character, there! I see it. I see what you did there. Is that how it really looks like to you? Cool, man. Thanks for sharing.
“Why is anything like anything anywhere?”
But, onto the story!
Crawl Space is about Daisy: The flower child who’s transcended generational gaps. She understands how permeable the boundaries between worlds are. She tried to show others the way back to love, to acceptance, but they trashed the place. Shattered her world. But she can’t let it go. She chases her innocence as far as it’ll take her, even if that means she’ll end up casting off what everyone else sees as “reality”, forever, to hid inside a world of her own invention.
The trip starts abruptly. I didn’t recall taking a hit, but it was apparent to me from page one that we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Enter two kaleidoscopic woman-shaped creatures carved from different slices of the same Rainbow Bright.
Daisy, the new girl in town is trying to explain to Jeanne-Claude just how to let go of the electrical signals her body’s telling her to remember to respond to and to accept the way things are now, in the world inside the washing machine. (They enter into the dryer and come out of the washing machine, as I understand it.)
It takes a little coaxing, but like any good trip, if you have good intentions, you’re open-minded and you follow the directions of your tour guide, that’s the only way you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself in the environment and enjoy what this new world has to offer you.
“Allow yourself to dissolve into the patterns.”
Daisy distinctly tells Jeanne-Claude not to spill her guts about the washing machine, yet she goes and does it anyway, to the most vapid little twats imaginable at their school.
You’ve seen this trope before, but it’s probably never brought you to tears. Word travels and soon there’s a party raging in Daisy’s basement, while she’s lost (or has she finally found herself?) inside the machine of color and amorphous shapes.
The problem is, the other kids are trying hard to grow up too fast. They can’t understand how dangerous it can be to gobble up everything in sight. They desecrate the sacred world of spiritually-enhanced beings. They broke Teapot, my favorite little gift-giver. And what did he do to them? Those little brats just took and took and turned the dancers from another realm into monsters.
Which leads us to the great departure. It’s time for Daisy to leave again. Her parents are sending her to boarding school and Jeanne-Claude must get going to soccer practice. What’s more important, though? Playing pretend games on a pretend field of grass, where you can’t even use yours hands. What’s with that? I, myself, would prefer to chase my dreams even if they lead me into a dank sewer tunnel and away from a world where being normal is more important than being who you are.
There’s music in the way the rainbow worm slinkies its way across a set of panels. You see glimpses of the general direction in which the colors flow, but Jacobs doesn’t spoon feed you. You have to imagine what lingers around the edges, which leads me to believe Crawl Space would make for a good animated short.
His use of line work is sick. So patient is he to get the outline of a locker perfectly straight around the parallel of a wall, in respect to the stairwell adjacent to it. In our otherworld, there are hardly any sharp edges, save for our Mr. “E” Hands, the foldable color dude who just wants to dance and have fun. He doesn’t need drugs to do it, either. Or, so we think.
There’s something symbolic about it, I think. Didn’t we go through a period where we were devoting our adolescent lives to being straight-laced kids who wanted nothing more than to fit in? Did you get bullied and retreat from society? Did your family secrets embarrass you? Or, did your family move so much that you never quite got the hang of making friends?
What happens when life shifts into something more than class and clothes and popularity? You can’t quite share that experience with other people. Not the way you feel it. How do you explain what it means to become one with the all-knowing, neverending stream of consciousness that serves as the interstitial realm between here and there and nowhere and everywhere in between. You can try, but then a bunch of punk kids will trash the Garden of Eden you so selflessly offered them. They don’t see it the same way you do. The unassuming world of transitory bliss melts and becomes a hellish nightmare from which you can’t escape.
Crawl Space is one for the shelf, to be sure. Pick this one up if you’re in one of those moods where you’re goal is to FEEL DIFFERENT after you’ve read a comic. If you just want to eat up some word vomit to kill time, by all means, don’t get sucked into this story, because it’ll change you. As a person.
You’ve been warned.
Shannon Bohnen graduated with a BA in Journalism, minor in philosophy, and now she writes copy as a marketing manager for a crop of nonprofits. She reads a lot and writes fiction/poetry/prose on the side. Tweet at her if you like: @w3rdn3rd (or whatever you want to say here)