- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: Z2 Comics (November 24, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1940878047
- ISBN-13: 978-1940878041
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.4 x 10.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,251,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Pawn Shop Paperback – November 24, 2015
Top customer reviews
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Originally four issues, the story is satisfying in each chapter, since each features one protagonist. Read together, though, there are additional connections visible that make the whole thing more rewarding. And overall, it’s refreshing, composed of small notes of hope in otherwise mundane, sometimes struggling lives. The story is about people, not a gimmicky situation or ridiculous ability.
The biggest problem is that the art isn’t quite there yet. While I always knew what was going on in the story, there were panels where the faces, in particular, looked oddly deformed, which throws off the reader getting lost in the experience of someone else’s life. (Continuing the movie comparison, it’s as though one of the ensemble cast was someone’s buddy or girlfriend instead of being selected for acting ability.) The backgrounds, though, essential for this kind of story and its dependence on sense of place and setting, are well-done (with the exception of the titular pawn shop in chapter one, which appears to be full of empty shelves).
The third chapter, about the “punk” woman who’s drawn into criminal activity by a bad ex-boyfriend, was my least favorite. It’s the kind of story TV does too often, and key decisions are left out or glossed over, damaging to such a character-driven story. I also thought it needed an introductory caption of “two days ago” or some such, because reading them all in a row, the jump back in time can be confusing.
Much stronger are the other stories, with chapters two and four working particularly well together. (Film fans may note echoes of Laura Linney’s storyline from Love Actually.) The dialogue is strong, with additional meaning that reveals itself after all the pieces of the story are in place. The internal monologue narration is substantial, without falling back on cliche.
The widower is looking for one last memory of his beloved departed wife. The nurse needs the strength to try to tell the woman he likes that he likes her. The criminal needs to stand up for herself. The conductor has to come to terms with a family struggle. With its interconnections, this is the kind of story that can only be told about a certain kind of place, one where disparate strands can be expected to meet, tangle, and unspool in a different direction. Yet it makes that huge city much more personal and small-scale. (Review originally posted at ComicsWorthReading.com.)
Pawn Shop is a graphic novel told in four chapters that read like linked stories. To a greater or lesser extent, each chapter revolves around a pawn shop. The first is narrated by an elderly man who can’t leave the city behind. He moved to Long Island after his wife died but he keeps coming back, despite his feeling that the city has moved on without him. Moving on is something he can’t do, as evidenced by his daily excursions to the city where his memories linger. One of his memories is symbolized by an object that represents more than the object itself. The story is a touching examination of loss and of moving on.
The second chapter is told from the point of view of a regular visitor at the pawn shop who is comforted by the safety of his daily routine. Part of that routine involves a minor character in the first story. But routines are limiting. The young man wonders whether he will find the courage to put his life on a different path.
Near the end of the second chapter, the young man encounters a young woman on a train who is the focus of the third chapter, which circles back to the old man in the first chapter and to the events that bring him to the pawn shop. A woman who appears tangentially in the first two chapters narrates the last one. Along with the old man in the first chapter, she has the kind of karmic experience that turns a big city into a small place.
Each of the four central characters is undergoing (or deciding whether to undergo) a life-changing transition. Each closes a door, but that creates the possibility of another door opening, a door to a less suffocating life. Each character benefits from connections to the other characters, often in ways that they will never understand. New Yorkers might feel isolated, but Pawn Shop tells us that they are never alone. Maybe the novel’s two karmic moments are hokey, maybe the message is a little obvious, but in the end, I didn’t care. This short graphic novel is emotionally honest and more moving than most of the 400 page novels I’ve read.
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