There are two stories in this comic. In the first, a waitress at Common Grounds, a coffee shop frequented by super-heroes and –villains, picks up a frightening hitchhiker, only to turn the tables on him. In the second story, a hero searches for his missing father at Common Grounds, little realizing that his father is trapped in a microscopic universe within the coffee shop.
The secret of this wonderful comic is in its surprises. I’m not talking about those surprises that make a reader jump out of their seat in fear or excitement. Instead, the surprises come from the wonderful humanity of the characters Hickman depicts. Sure, many of them wear costumes, but the costumes are secondary to the people wear them. Unlike Kurt Busiek with Astro City, the focus isn’t on the civilians affected by the exploits of larger-than-life heroes; the focus is on the fact that everybody has a story, everybody is the protagonist of their lives. Some of the main characters in these stories do wear costumes; others, like Jenny, the waitress who is the protagonist of the first story, are ordinary people. All, however, are interesting or heroic in their own ways.
“Roles”, the story featuring Jenny, is a really wonderful tale. Hickman does a great job of juxtaposing Jenny’s career dreams, intelligence and bravery. She has no super-powers, but uses super-powers in a very cool way. Through that use of super-powers, we see her grow as a person. I really got caught up in her situation and I’m looking forward to seeing where she goes from here.
“Elsewhere”, the second story, is as poignant as can be. By having the father and son be so close and yet so far from each other, Hickman sets up a situation that is universal yet could only happen in comic books. The love between the two men is palpable, and yet it’s not schmaltzy or overdone.
Common Grounds is a special comic. It’s not just about capes and tights, though it has capes and tights. Common Grounds is all about ordinary people. Some have costumes, but all of them are ordinary people just trying to do as best they can.