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Review: Ivar, Timewalker #1

Written by Royal Nonesuch on Wednesday, January 21 2015 and posted in Reviews

Review: Ivar, Timewalker #1

It’s a walk through time, courtesy of Fred van Lente, Clayton Henry, Brian Reber, and Valiant Comics!

In Rian Johnson's 2012 film Looper, Bruce Willis' Old Joe character tries to explain the mechanics of time travel to his younger self, describing his memories as "cloudy." He goes on to explain that in talking about the process, he's simply giving a "precise description of a fuzzy mechanism," and that the whole thing is "messy." Certainly, it's hard to know if Fred van Lente had this cinematic exchange in mind while writing the first issue of Ivar, Timewalker #1, but as he notes in this interview with io9, time travel stories are all around us and nearly inescapable. This is particularly true in comic books. The fact is, most time travel stories turn out to be a goddamn headache. They end up getting so bogged down in defining rules and paradoxes that the whole thing simply isn't worth it. Johnson seemed to be avioding the issue by glossing over it with the "cloudy" conversation, but while van Lente does open up the super-science time travel process throughout his script for this debut issue via expository information, he also keeps things mysterious enough to make the whole thing truly engaging.

With the continuing growth of Valiant's publishing line, there's more time and space in their narrative universe to be explored by its books, and Ivar brings us into the world of the eldest Anni-Padda brother. Van Lente has been detailing the conspiracy-busting adventures of Aram in Archer & Armstrong (a title he started on with Ivar penciller Clayton Henry), and GIlad, the Eternal Warrior, not only had his own short-lived series, but is also the centerpiece of The Valiant, the publisher's major event limited series currently running.  With the two younger brothers occupied in those books, Ivar has been traveling the time stream, correcting what's wrong and apparently saving the world. Ivar, Timewalker #1 kicks off with the title character swooping in to rescue quantum physicist/audience surrogate Neela Sethi from certain horrifying death at the hands of Prometheans, time-traveling marauders who are after Neela for reasons that are kept somewhat opaque, though it certainly has something to do with the fact that she's about to embark on her life's work at CERN.

The script is vintage van Lente: restlessly entertaining and full of humor, life, and adventure. As Neela and Ivar hop through time, the verbal interaction between the two elucidates the situation the two of them are in, with Ivar explaining how everything around them is possible and Neela, despite her incredulity, able to follow along due to her physics training. With all of this techno-babble-laden exposition going on, the reader gets some access to who Ivar is as a character (up to a point), but also who Neela is. She spends most of her time in this issue freaking out, but she's also established as an intelligent, driven individual who's thrown into an absurd situation and has to process a lot of information while on the run for her life. Van Lente makes her very relatable (just as she's about to flip the switch on her greatest invention, she brings up a David Bowie playlist while promising to make her father proud of her) and emotional, which is important, as without those qualities in Neela, this issue could have veered hard into incomprehensibility. Ivar #1 is an issue that needs to be re-read, considering how much of an infodump it is, and how technical that info is. Thus, the character work makes a re-read joyful, rather than a chore (it also justifies the major plot twist that comes in the final pages of the issue).

Clayton Henry may be Fred van Lente's most frequent artistic collaborator at Valiant, and it's easy to see why they work together so often. Their storytelling instincts do complement each other very well. Henry's strength is in facial expressions and bodily gestures, and he uses those strengths to great effect in rendering van Lente's sense of humor and the way his characters respond to the insanity of their world. The ideas in Ivar #1 are big, and if you couldn't tell from the plot of the issue, you surely would be able to do so from the look on Neela's face in any given panel (much of the issue calls for closeups of Neela's face, highlighting her wide-eyed shock at everything she's looking at). Henry isn't a flashy artist, but his stories always flow easily, and he matches the various rhythms of a van Lente script. Henry gets to cut loose on a two-page spread of Neela and Ivar falling through various eras of history (in a sequence that also offers an explanation on why it's so easy to lost your keys, pens, and sunglasses), and also conveys the emotions of a conversation scene. Henry isn't just effective as a comic book artist, he also makes his comics fun.

Colorist Brian Reber has probably been the unsung hero of Valiant since its revival over three years ago. While Valiant utilizes various individual artists with similar strengths (eschewing an artistic house style), it is Reber's color palette that has united and defined the look of Valiant's comics. In Ivar #1, he brings forth the subtle lighting and shading as well as the texture, vibrancy and personality inherent in Henry's art. Reber also grounds the madness of the issue further into a relatable space, which not only makes it of a piece with the rest of the Valiant universe, but also clearly underscores the fact that the events of the issue truly are happening to its characters, furthering the story and making it more immediate.

Ivar, Timewalker #1 is a solidly constructed first issue that hits all the right notes with a healthy dose of science fiction flourish to keep things interesting. There's a lot of information to go with all the story, and it not only makes for a great companion piece to Archer & Armstrong, which this creative team also has connections to, but it serves to shine some light on even more of the Valiant universe. It's an issue that begs to be re-read, but also adds enough intrigue to hook readers into a second issue.


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About the Author - Royal Nonesuch

As Senior Media Correspondent (which may be a made-up title), Royal Nonesuch tends to spearhead a lot of film and television content on The Outhouse. He's still a very active participant in the comic book section of the site, though. Nonesuch writes reviews of film, television, and comics, and conducts interviews for the site as well.  You can reach out to him on Twitter or with Email.


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