Publishers Weekly Starred Review for Present

“Publishers Weekly Starred Review Present” / September 11, 2017

Stein (Bright-Eyed at Midnight) finds beauty in the mundane in this warmhearted collection of diary comics originally published online at Vice. From a walk across the Manhattan Bridge to a bit of slapstick in a retirement home to fretting over her relationship with her mother, Stein portrays every moment with sincerity; cynicism is laudably absent from this candy-colored world. Darker themes also emerge; some of the best comics contemplate aging and loneliness. But every page is suffused with empathy, while resisting the saccharine: there are no tidy endings, nor smug moralizing. Stein’s vibrant watercolors are a marvel, especially in the palette: dribbles of cerulean, slashes of black, and dots of deepest crimson are as captivating as any plot twist. Even the lettering tells a story, often exploding on the page in different colors and sizes. It all adds up to a sweet, relatable portrait of the minutiae that make life worth living. 

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