Book Review: Crawl Space by Jesse Jacobs

Crawl Space by Jesse Jacobs

Crawl Space is a psychedelic graphic novel created by Jesse Jacobs, published by Koyama Press, and embodies the artist’s unique style of art and storytelling. Jacobs’ first graphic novel published with Koyama Press is his psychedelic creation myth By This You Shall Know Him (2012). This was followed, in 2014, by the publication of Safari Honeymoon, which involves a trippy exploration of nature versus nurture. He has also worked on the Cartoon Network show Adventure Time, which actually doesn’t surprise me, as when reading Crawl Space, I kept thinking that it had the vibe of an Adventure Time episode.

This latest graphic novel from Jacobs, published in 2017, tells the story of two friends, Daisy and Jeanne-Claude. Daisy is the new kid on the block and is eager to fit in. She also happens to have a washing machine in her house that acts as a portal to an out-of-this-world dimension, replete with bizarre shape-shifting entities and strange happenings. This exciting world is a psychedelic and spiritual realm, where one’s mental states and actions can transform the space one finds oneself in, as well as change how the creatures interact with you. A journey into this novel world can also result in profound experiences of self-transcendence.

In Crawl Space, Jacobs combines a playful, coming-of-age story with more surreal and mystical themes, which is, indeed, quite a unique creation in the world of graphic novels. The friendship between Daisy and Jeanne-Claude is tested and developed as they travel through this secret alien world. Crawl Space shifts from narratives about the trials and tribulations of adolescence – such as popularity, partying, school, new friendships, and fitting in – to explorations of much deeper ideas about non-physical realities, extra dimensions, altered states of consciousness, and spirituality.

One of the most striking aspects of this graphic novel is Jacobs’ sheer talent and ingenuity. He weaves together intricate geometry, abstract patterns, and brilliant rainbow hues (which contrast with the normal black-and-white world that Daisy and Jeanne-Claude live in) to emphasise the otherworldly nature of this hidden realm.

There are also many vital messages that Jacobs is trying to get across. The tale of Daisy’s Narnia-esque washing machine seems to partly be a warning about the power of psychedelic substances and the need to approach them with the proper respect if one is to gain the most benefits out of them, as well as to avoid their more frightening effects. This is exemplified by characters in the novel who act against Daisy’s recommendations about how to navigate the new space and its zany inhabitants.

While the novel doesn’t explicitly refer to any particular psychedelic compound (or psychedelics, in general), I do feel that the various descriptions and themes contained in the story share a striking resemblance to those associated with the DMT experience. For example, Jacobs’ envisioned realm, like the DMT experience, can be intense, engulfing, entertaining, mystical, and involves encounters with entities, which can adopt either jovial or unfriendly attitudes towards the intrepid explorer. Also, I’m not the only one who has thought Crawl Space was blatantly inspired by the potent psychedelic chemical DMT.

Crawl Space will likely be appreciated by anyone who is interested in altered states and psychedelic art; but, it will also appeal to graphic novel enthusiasts – and a much wider audience – who are interested in reading something a bit out of the ordinary.

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