Common Grounds #1 (2003)

A donut shop called Common Grounds is a neutral meeting-place or heroes and villains. In the first of two stories, a news reporter meets a super-speedster called Speeding Bullet at Common Grounds. Speeding Bullet tells the reporter about his life, finally revealing that super powers ain’t what they’re cracked up to be. In the second story, two arch-enemies, Man-Witch and Mental Midget, run into each other as they each dash to Common Grounds to use the bathroom. While both are there, they have a heart to-heart talk about their lives and their relationship with each other.

The Good:
You might get the impression that there is a lot of talk and only a little bit of action in this book. That’s mostly true, but Troy Hickman is a skillful writer who does a great job keeping the reader interested in the stories. There’s just an echo of Astro City in these tales that explore the real lives of super-heroes while still giving them their super-powered dignity.

The tale of Speeding Bullet is very moving. It seems super-speed may not be the greatest power to have, as along with Bullet’s super-speed comes an insatiable appetite for food, a short attention span, and real difficulty communicating with people. What would you do if everything about you moved at super-speed? How would you watch a movie? How could sports stay interesting? And what do you do when your super-speed just won’t help a bad situation? Hickman handles this story with warmth and feeling for the character. Bullet is not just a dude in a suit kvetching; in Hickman’s hands, Speeding Bullet becomes a real character. The art by Dan Jurgens and Al Vey is as wonderful as you might expect from that team of real professionals. They were the perfect team to work on a story like this – by getting a pair of experienced and very recognizable professionals to draw this story, the story gains much more of a feeling of realism, as if it lies just outside of the Marvel of DC Universes.

The second story is much lighter in tone. I can’t say I’m crazy about setting a story in a bathroom, but it does result in some very amusing scenes, such as the one where Man-Witch magically transports a piece of toilet paper to Midget’s stall. Oeming, who has brought such a unique feel to Powers, here does the same wonderful job of having one foot in the humorous world while keeping the other in a serious world.

The Bad:
I wasn’t thrilled by the setting of the second story. It was a funny place to set a story, but I prefer to not think of super-dudes on the potty.

Also, I would have loved to read more background on Troy Hickman and the world of Common Grounds. I would have loved to have read about how Troy came up with this concept, and get a preview of some of the other donut-eating crime fighters who might appear in the future. Also, I found myself wondering who else will be illustrating stories in this series.

"Mmmm… donuts!"
This was a wonderful six-issue series, taking a position somewhere on the less-serious side of Astro City. It was recently collected, and hopefully there will be a second volume of Common Grounds. I can’t wait to see what kind of crullers Hickman cooks up in the future.


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