THE MAGIC FISH Is a Stunning Contemporary Fairy Tale

Trung Le Nguyen is probably already one of your favorite artists. The stunning illustrator has built a huge following online sharing their instantly recognizable art with the world. If you’re a fan of comics, you might have read some of their stories in anthologies like Twisted Romance, 1001 Nights, or Fresh Romance. Maybe you saw some of Le Nguyen’s intricate and delicate variant covers for comic book series like Adventure Time, The Beauty, and the Gotham Academy/Lumberjanes crossover. If you’ve yet to discover Nguyen’s dreamlike art, then you’re in for a treat. The Magic Fish is the cartoonist’s debut graphic novel, and it’s nothing short of spectacular.

Random House Graphic

Comics have long weathered the erroneous stigma of being solely the province of caped heroes, gritty reimaginings of classic superhero stories, or the intellectual ponderings of a select group of cartoonists. That perception has changed steadily over the last decade. Comics for young readers regularly appear on the New York Times bestseller list, selling millions of copies. Random House Graphic is a new imprint looking to cater to that exact market with a diverse line up of kids and young readers comics that clearly respect their audience. Even with a roster of incredible cartoonists, The Magic Fish stands out as the imprint’s best book yet.

Random House Graphic

The sprawling yet intimate story juxtaposes fairy tales and the everyday to tell the story of Tiến, a young boy trying to work out how to tell his parents that he’s gay. Le Nguyen crafts a tale here that is both hopeful and bittersweet—a moving tale about family, immigration, and coming out. There’s plenty to love here. The cartoonist spins glittering fantasy yarns that spill in and out of Tiến’s everyday life, slowly changing and evolving as he does.

While he fills his days at school with friends, schoolwork, and a burgeoning crush, at home Tiến and his parents communicate through the language of the fairy tale stories that he borrows from the library. With these stories he hopes to bridge the gap between the Vietnamese words he can’t quite find to tell his parents the truth about who he is. The power of stories is key as Tiến and his parents traverse growing up through the medium of books. The fact that The Magic Fish itself holds a powerful message that could change the life of those who read it adds to the layers of that particular thematic exploration.

Random House Graphic

As children we rarely heard loving and thoughtful stories about queerness or coming out. Pretty much every story dripped with trauma and unhappy endings. The Magic Fish offers readers happiness and magic whilst still feeling completely authentic and real. It’s hard to put into words how well Le Nguyen translates their skills as an illustrator to long-form sequential storytelling. To mold the multiple stories—both fantastical and intimately familial—around Tiến’s journey of self-discovery requires a deft hand. It’s a talent Le Nguyen so clearly showcases.

Random House Graphic

The Magic Fish moved me to tears multiple times throughout my first reading. Not just by Tiến’s story which is at the heart of the book, but also his mother’s story. Le Nguyen gives her a rare whole arc that brings an extra layer of complexity and nuance to the tale. Then there are the emotive fairy tales that surround the real world and the immersive prettiness of Le Nguyen’s art. The Magic Fish is truly stunning, as our exclusive art shows. It’s a book that really doesn’t look or read like anything else. And it tells a powerful and vital story with an unexpectedly light and charming touch.

The Magic Fish hits shelves on October 13, 2020.

Featured Image: Random House Graphic

Trending Topics