Common Grounds
by Troy Hickman, various artists (Image/Top Cow, 2007)

There's a place -- a chain of them, actually -- where heroes and villains can go to blow off some steam over a cappucino and a doughnut. At Common Grounds, the Starbucks for the super-powered elite, there's no fighting allowed.

The first collection from the ongoing Common Grounds series is written by originator Troy Hickman, with assists from various artists. And it's insightful and fun, really fun, in a way most comics never are.

Sure, the concept and execution owes a great deal to Kurt Busiek's Astro City, but Hickman pulls it off without ever seeming stale or derivative.

Over the course of 13 tales, Hickman presents a side of the costumed set that's rarely seen. For instance, readers will learn the downside of being the fastest man alive (apart from the friction burns, that is). A pair of sibling heroes discover a great deal about their late, villainous father. And a super-son comes looking for his missing super-dad.

There's a great deal of insight garnered from a pair of archfoes who end up side by side in the restaurant's men's room stalls. Even more comes from a candid chat between two former adversaries, now retired, in the alley out back.

A group of overweight crimefighters ponder the perils of excess pounds. A waitress puts her experience with heroes to good use when she finds herself in danger. And there's plenty more. Heck, half the fun of the book is just watching the crowd in the background.

Hickman does the writing, while the art is provided by a rotating stable of talent including Dan Jurgens, Michael Avon Oeming, Chris Bachalo, George Perez, Angel Medina and Sam Kieth.

Pull up a stool, order a cup and a cruller, and sit back to enjoy the conversations around you. Hickman serves it up fresh and steaming.

review by
Tom Knapp

3 November 2007

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