Several months ago, copies of Pawn Shop by Joey Esposito and Sean Von Gorman were distributed to backers of the Kickstarter project. Esposito has repeatedly proved to be a gem in the world of indie comics, penning the outstanding Footprints and co-writing the Monkeybrain series Captain Ultimate with Benjamin Bailey. Von Gorman’s art on various projects has been nothing short of stunning. Thankfully, the gods are kind and forgiving to those that did not participate in the initial crowd funding as Pawn Shop #1 is now available for digital purchase on Comixology.
Pawn Shop’s opening chapter is the story of Harold, a widower who walks the streets of New York in the wake of his wife’s passing. In an industry dominated by masks, and even the ones that break the mold have a twist on normal, Pawn Shop is a refreshingly real story. Using Harold as our guide, Esposito takes us on a journey to different New York landmarks, though not the ones you’d normally think of. We’re taken to the steps of the New York Public Library, not inside it, but just the steps – where Harold met his wife. We visit a diner where he finds out his mother died, it also happens to be from that show about nothing. It’s a reminder that, when stripped of the gloss and veneer of its tourist locations, New York is a city made of real people, with real lives and real emotions.
Esposito’s words are perfectly complemented by artwork which allows the issue to tug at the reader’s heartstrings. Von Gorman’s artwork is sublime. Both cartoonish and sophisticated, the New York City depicted is more real and alive than anything in the dozen Marvel books which use the metropolis as a backdrop, though backgrounds are occasionally meager. That said, this is a character-focused story, and as such the character work is Von Gorman’s strongest contribution. His character renderings are as imperfect and complex as everyday people, allowing for a more immersive reading experience.
As great as the line work is, even more impressive is his use of color. Rather than bold, vibrant colors which can be found in the pages of Matt Fraction’s Sex Criminals or FF, Von Gorman adopts a muted, water color palate for much of the issue. Not only does it look great, but it allows the few instances of vibrant color use to truly pop off the page. At only 99 cents, Pawn Shop #1 is not only one of the best books of the week – it’s also clearly the best bargain.