The most frequent bottomless thing that has popped up in my life is the idea of bottomless pits, which Lake Jehovah immediately made me think of. Even as a kid, I never thought of such a thing as actually having no bottom, just having a drop that took so long to get to that it felt like there was no bottom, so if you fell in it, the overwhelming fear you felt from your plummet would be extended far beyond a normal pit, whatever that was, and when you reached the bottom of the a bottomless pit, it would definitely be the lowest you ever went, with the most significant fall you ever took.
That’s actually not a bad way to describe the emotional terrain of Jillian Fleck’s graphic novel that takes a number of circumstances — it practically piles on plot points, actually — as a way of diverting you, the reader, and the protagonist as well, Jay, a genderqueer person who finds ximself (that’s the gender designation used in the book, so that’s the one I’ll use here) in a emotional and psychological free fall that appears to have no end possible. It’s just an eternal plummet for Jay, and many of circumstances in the world mirror the personal for Jay.
Strictly speaking, Fleck’s story follows Jay through a tumultuous break-up that is more like a betrayal, the period following that in an extreme depression that manifests in a coma, some form of strange mystical utterings while the coma that causes tourists to flock to the town not only to see the bottomless lake but also the supposed sleeping profit, and Jay’s return to the world, with all the dangers that lurk in the form of heartless manipulators and actual demons, all taking advantage of Jay’s extreme need for validation through sexual encounters.
In the expanse of the narrative, Jay exists in a world of multiple apocalypses, and xis coma talk is taken as a further prophecy of a larger and final apocalypse to end all apocalypses. Taken as an emotional landscape, a world beset by multiple punishing ends that never quite finish things off but instead create a continual pummeling on humanity is a fair way to describe Jay’s relationship with life itself, and what Fleck documents is the slow, harrowing, almost overwhelming journey for Jay to find a way if not to overcome everything, at least a cliff to cling onto while xe does the work that’s required.
Fleck mixes all the elements very skillfully, with a deadpan humor that alternates with frantic despair and an otherworldly creepiness that blends into its own tenor. The fantastical elements do well in elevating the psychological ones, and Fleck ends up perfectly plumbing the depths of the bottomless lake, both literally and figuratively, for a portrayal of what it is like to be overwhelmed by the invisible and burdened by the incoherency of the universe.
Journalist and children’s book writer living in North Adams, Massachusetts. Author of ‘A Rule Is To Break: A Child’s Guide To Anarchy,’ ‘Happy Punks 1-2-3,’ ‘Frankie Liked To Sing,’ and others. My latest children’s books are ‘Gorilla Gardener: How To Help Nature Take Over The World’ and ‘We Say NO: A Child’s Guide To Resistance.’