Leslie Stein’s Bright-Eyed At Midnight was one of The A.V. Club’s best comics of 2015, a collection of “page-a-day” comics that spotlighted her talent for introspective, emotional storytelling while detailing her growth as an artist over the course of a year. After releasing the latest in her Eye Of The Majestic Creature series last year, she’s back with more personal short comics in Drawn & Quarterly’s Present, a collection of autobiographical tales that originally appeared on VICE’s website. With minimalist line work and delicate watercolors, Stein is able to draw readers deep into her headspace and the New York City environment, and her penchant for abstraction invites readers to illuminate the stories with their own interpretations.
This exclusive preview of Present explores the loneliness that overcomes Stein when the sun goes down, and the struggles she faces as a woman looking for companionship. The title page is a great example of how Stein brings a setting to life with rich color, and emphasizes her alienation when she’s surrounded by people enjoying themselves. The page where she meets an old acquaintance at the bar is essentially the same image repeated six times with slight changes in her facial expressions; that makes her emotional journey during the exchange very clear, especially in the final panel, when she starts to worry about how confident the man is in comparison to her own neurotic self. The entire book is full of smart artistic choices that illuminate Stein’s feelings in the moment, and readers can discover the full range of her talent by picking up Present when it goes on sale October 17.