Review: Troy Hickman’s Common Grounds

With Troy Hickman back on comics racks with his new series “Twilight Guardian,” I was inspired to order a trade paperback of what I recalled being his brilliant series, Common Grounds, which I had originally read in single issues as they came out.

Two things to get out of the way at the outset. The cover is horrible. I mean, as a piece of art, it’s OK, but not great. As a cover by which the Common Grounds book is being judged, it’s awful. But we’ll get back to that in a second. The other thing — you can buy a used copy of the collection for a little over a buck on Amazonwhich means you would be crazy to not. I mean, like, even if you don’t read comics; stop right now, follow that link, and order a copy.

OK? Back? Great.

Common Grounds is a brilliant comics reconstruction. Many of the noted works of the last 25 years have been comics deconstructions, taking apart the pieces of golden and silver age comics, seeing how they work, and building something dark and modern from them.

Hickman does a brilliant job loving examining the tropes and conventions that make comics work, but he then puts them back together in a way that honors, rather than diminishing, the classic feel. He’s a clever writer, approaching his stories from unexpected angles, and with the occasional surprise turn. But most of all, Common Grounds is a fun read.

From the secret struggles of a super-speedster to the reunion of two retired archrivals to the story of the Acidic Jew, Common Grounds is enjoyably fresh and greatly entertaining.

In some ways, there’s a feel to Hickman’s Common Grounds that’s not unlike Kurt Busiek’s Astro City(another must-read); there’s a similar lovingly creative approach to the classic elements of superheroes.

The other flaw with the Common Grounds trade paperback? The spine is marked with a large “Volume 1.” It’s a huge shame that it wasn’t followed up with a Volume 2.