By Mai K. Nguyen
It's always impressive to see the quality comics that are posted online for free reading, making for a great avenue to discover new talent. Mai K. Nguyen appears to be one such undiscovered gem, if the pages that have been published of her comic Curio so far are any indication of what she can do. With fewer than two chapters of what could stretch into a long-form masterpiece posted so far, she has already established a likable character, run her through an emotional wringer, and nudged her into a fantastical world full of gorgeously-designed supernatural detail.
It's beautiful work, seeing an almost-ten-year-old girl named Vivi struggling with the ramifications of her mother's sickness, frustrated that nobody believes she is old enough to handle the truth of the situation, and desperate to regain a gift which her mother had just implored her not to lose, thrust suddenly into one of those fantastical haunted houses which are bigger on the inside than the outside and granted mystical knowledge and a quest to regain not only her own property, but the soul of a friendly ghost, and probably also defeat an evil wizard of some sort. It's fast moving stuff, but Nguyen makes it work beautifully with her clear-lined designs and gorgeous coloring, lending an appealing energy to the story that spurs one to keep on clicking to see what's coming next.
Her character design is something special too; Vivi is a marvel of expression and childlike vulnerability, her thin legs and rosy-cheeked face protruding from a bulky sweater and scarf, unkempt hair topping her frame like a cute mop, large eyes and mouth conveying sadness, fear, anger, and determination as only a kid can.
The story is only just getting started, with Nguyen hinting at much fantastical adventure to come, but with this beginning, there is every reason to expect a satisfying romp that doesn't spare the emotion. I can't wait to read more.