Booklist reviews Present

Booklist / Annie Bostrom / October 31, 2017

In her introduction to this collection of her serialized Vice comics, Stein writes that, years ago, when she once felt like her work was impossible, she flipped an internal switch and began to think of making comics as a gift for someone else rather than a challenge for herself: a succinct adjustment that’s apparent in every diary-like comic that follows. Although the topics of these autobiographical essays are sometimes heavy, the comics themselves rarely are. Fears of disappointing her parents; her grandfather’s declining health; post-2016-election blues: thanks to her light tone, bright palette, and exuberant style, all are taken as they come, moment by moment. Stein’s inventive and utterly unique approach combines rainbow watercolor washes with fine ink line work and lettering, treating some items with great detail while leaving others with an unfinished feel. (Faces, for example, lack outlines or all their features but convey plenty of emotion.) The result is scenes that are abstract yet easily recognizable and an enrapturing backdrop for Stein’s clear and careful storytelling. Readers will delight in slowing down to consider it all.

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