Common Grounds #4 Review

Reviewer: Mathan “T.M. Maple” Erhardt
Story Title: Time of Their Lives

Written by: Troy Hickman
Penciled by: Carlos Pacheco
Inked by: Jesus Merino
Colored by: Guy Major

Story Title: Fat Chance

Written by: Troy Hickman
Penciled by: Dan Jurgens
Inked by: Al Vey
Colored by: Tom Smith

Story Title: Glory Days

Written by: Troy Hickman
Penciled by: George Perez
Inked by: Mike Perkins
Colored by: Tom Smith

All Letters by: Dreamer Design’s Robin Spehar, Mark Roslan and Dennis Heisler.
Publisher: Top Cow/Image

Common Grounds is one of the finest comic books out. If Siegel created the super hero and Lee gave the hero real problems, then Hickman makes them completely real. Common Grounds is a super hero comic where super powers are almost secondary, and is still fun to read.

“Time of Their Lives” deals with two former enemies Commander Power and Blackwatch. Commander Power got an injury that retired him from the life and after Blackwatch was convicted of murder (for killing a hero no less) his life went downhill. Thus they meet behind Common Grounds, where Blackwatch is scrounging for food. The two characters chat and catch up on how they fared after their battles. Commander Power, being the good guy that he is, decides to offer his former enemy a place to sleep, in his house. It is a nice tale of humanity among the super human.

“Fat Chance” is almost absurd, but makes total sense. In a real world situation there would be obese super heroes. Thus we meet the “Super Heavyweights” a support group who meet monthly at Common Grounds, and never use the word “fat.” They prefer the term “density challenged.” It’s Knockout’s first meeting and she meets the rest of the group; Miniaturian ( a shrinking hero, who is so overweight that the bird he rides on began having heart attacks), Coldspell (who uses freezing powers to make ice cream, to the detriment of her hero career) and HI-TEC. Poor HI- TECH, he has one of those costumes full of gadgets. But since he gained so much weight, he only has two gadgets that still fit in the armor.

Red Fox (not the comedian) wants the group to take a stand and make society more accepting of the density challenged. Knockout just wants to get fit. There is a power struggle and everyone gets what he or she wants in the end.

Now before I talk about “Glory Days” let me just tell you that I am a closet romantic. “Say Anything,” “West Side Story,” “Moulin Rouge,” and “Punch-Drunk Love” hit me every time. I even made my roommate sit through “Serendipity.” The sentiment behind The Supremes’ “Someday We’ll Be Together” is what got me listening to oldies. Basically; I am a sucker for a good love story.

Now, with that set up, “Glory Days” is about a reunion of the Liberty Balance, as seen through the eyes of “Lift-Off”, a former member. All he wants to do is see “Belle-Air” again. Y’see, back in the day, Lift-Off and Belle-Air were the only member who could fly, thus they were de facto partners. Lift-Off bumps into many of his former teammates. Some are married, some have kids, some are worse for the wear. But when Belle finally arrives, everything comes alive. And that last page is priceless.

I’m really amazed that Hickman can consistently hit the high mark month after month. It’s the little touches that make his stories work so well—like the interesting tidbit of powers fading with age. His encounter between former enemies makes you want to believe in the inherent good in people, but that last panel puts the entire story in a new perspective. Dealing with issues of weight can be a tricky deal, but Hickman manages to avoid making fun of the density challenged while still being funny. His knack is probably derived from the fact that these are just normal people and encounters, which happen to involve people with powers.

“Glory Days” is superb. It is so perfect that if it were a song, it would probably be my lead off on a mix tape to a girl. Everyone knows what its like to have a crush and that feeling of anticipation when you know a meeting is imminent. But Hickman manages to make you care about a thirty-year-old crush between two people whose names you don’t know. And the payoff is just so perfect. It seems so obvious, but I was so wrapped up in the story that I didn’t see it coming.

I’ve been a Pacheco fan since his days on The Flash, so seeing his work here was great. Everyone did a great job of playing up the contrast between the destitute Blackwatch and the well off Commander Power. The trash and graffiti were subtle, yet excellent choices that add to the realness of the story.

Jurgens and company must have had a blast coming up with the designs for the Super Heavyweights. The story is almost as much fun to look at as it is to read. I’m telling you it is one of the oddest sights ever.

When has George Perez ever failed? Hot off JLA/Avengers, Perez contributes his usual excellent work here. The Liberty Balance trading cards is an excellent touch that allows Perez to show off his talent for action in a story that is almost devoid of action, of the superhero nature. Again that last page really is priceless.