Autobiography in comics has been plagued by insulated creators who don’t realise that a strip about someone cutting in front of them at the supermarket isn’t an anecdote, it’s an everyday experience. There’s none of that in Sleeping While Standing. Taki Soma starts as she continues with a jaw-dropping story of her mother seeing her and her brother as packages to be passed on after their parents divorce.

Soma tells her stories in brief bursts instead of attempting to present a connected narrative, with the result being all killer and no filler. Every story engages, and the connections can be made between them, although it’s not until the final strip that Soma reveals a blight that’s affected much of her adult life. It’s one of several moments during Sleeping While Standing that will take your breath away, as Soma intended.

In addition to the attractive art, she’s a very nuanced writer, leading readers into her recollections with well-chosen words that don’t always indicate where things are heading, although chapters titled ‘Addict’, ‘Murder’ and Rape’ reveal they travel into dark areas. Introductions from Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming note the technical quality and the surprise of reading the strips first, but barely touch on the darkness.

Soma has a fair amount of tragedy in her life, and a fair amount to get off her chest, and no matter how well drawn and the sly observations, her therapeutic purge doesn’t make for easy reading. It’s liable to induce sorrow, sympathy and anger in roughly equal quantities. However, the honesty, intelligence, and uncertainties on some subjects paint a picture of someone who considers life, other people, and the world around them, and there’s a straightforward clarity to the presentation.

Most people will be thankful their lives aren’t Soma’s, but we ought to be grateful for the vicarious opportunity to consider in some strips how we’d behave in the same circumstances, and in others for an understanding of what may still occur.