Jesse Jacobs has always had an affiliation with psychedelia and alternative realities. In 2012, the Canadian illustrator published By This Shall You Know Him with Koyama Press, a vibrant depiction of the lives of celestial beings and molecular forms. It set the tone for subsequent alt-comics: Jacobs often tackles social anxieties by representing them in a bizarre and kaleidoscopic way, creating allegorical wonderlands for the modern age. The illustrator’s latest comic, Crawl Space—also published by Koyama Press—tells the story of a rainbow-tinted world that lies hidden inside a washer/dryer unit.
A group of neighborhood children discovers this portal of psychedelic weirdness, one filled with iridescent creatures and the curious smell of lavender-detergent, and a place distinctly at odds with the graying normality of their suburban world. In this fraught realm of the tumble dryer, Jacobs asks whether friendship can survive the allure of the psychedelic.
It’s a parable, perhaps, for the draw of hallucinogenics as these kids become obsessed with adventuring in the formless, colorful ether—one girl becomes so entranced by the washing unit’s magic that it becomes difficult to pull her out again. Alt-comic fans will find that in style and tone, Crawl Space is kin to Jesse Moynihan’s creationist fables.
A talking teapot that seems to be the spirit guide of the narrative—a character part Beauty and the Beast, part acid-induced vision—best encapsulates Jacobs’ distinctive retro sensibility. It’s not the narrative that’s gripping, though; Jacobs’ strength is in detail and form, in snaking patterns inspired as much by Mayan stone carvings as by ’60s flower power.
The way shapes gather over panels give the graphics an ensnaring quality, making Crawl Space the comic equivalent to a trance: while there isn’t a huge amount of meaning to sink your teeth into, the visuals make for one hell of a trip.