By Fred Van Lente, Pere Perez, Andrew Dalhouse, and Dave Sharpe
Beware the Ides of March…ing dinosaurs? What is even happening? Fred Van Lente and Pere Perez are pushing the boundaries of silly with delight, blending science fiction adventure with action adventure in to a humorous whole that’s nothing short of a romp. Ivar, Timewalker #10 may not be packed to the brim with big, dramatic, ever so serious gravitas that thrust the plot forward towards even bigger reveals, but it’s far from filler and it’s never really been about that. Instead, Ivar has always reminded you the fun that can be had in comics and the joys of what can be found along the way. It’s an adventure steeped in having as much fun as possible before the story inevitable needs to come to a close. And so, we present Exhibit B: An alternate timeline with dinosaur Legionnaires, oppressed and rebellious Herbivores and Mammali, and gladiatorial gorillas. Salve, Caesar!
One has to wonder if Van Lente is pulling his ideas from an asylum’s discarded mad lib sheet. Clown Vikings have given way to Roman dinosaurs and all the societal ills and political maneuverings that accompany it. Bottom line: this issue is dedicated to having fun first and foremost. While the focus is on exploring this land before time as we know it, Van Lente’s script allows for some great character bits for Ivar (who is, the Ivar of the past and not the Ivar we’ve been following through much of the book) and his newfound de-feathered, downtrodden comrade. Neela’s as quippy as ever as she’s pretending to be her Promthean future-self to the Dino-Caesar and discovering precisely what the stakes are. Let’s just say, they’re cataclysmic.
Van Lente clearly knows how all the time travel jiggery pokery (*crosses fingers for an alternate timeline Scalia the Hutt*) works, but his scripts always assure the reader not to worry too much about that. Here he’s offering up an episodic adventure tale that’s one part Planet Hulk, one part Rome, a sprinkling of Quantum Leap and a couple of Blazing Saddles dashes added in. The Ivar and Neela relationship takes a back seat and the overarching plot of how exactly Neela plans to undo the fatal results of the…future(?) aren’t progressed in an obvious fashion, but the sharp dialogue and work with Ank are their own reward. It isn’t a sidestep or a distraction from the narrative, it’s one facet of a story we’ve yet to see take full form filled with ridiculousness and joie de comic vie. Plus, Van Lente makes Ivar’s unrepentant arrogance somehow endearing and that’s a feat unto itself.
Pere Perez either loves or hates dinosaurs at this point after having to draw so many, but hopefully he and Van Lente are still on speaking terms because this issue is a visual treat. With a clean and bold line, Perez renders the myriad articulations and anatomies with a buoyancy that matches the script’s tone. It’s light and animated (the T-Rex legionnaires saluting is nothing short of adorable) with conservative shading and an eye for humor. There’s some ambiguity in the pacing of the action sequences in the arena scenes however, and that produces a hiccup in an otherwise smooth flowing narrative. His backgrounds are largely developed and balanced and he can be forgiven for photoshopping in a texture for the crowds of the arena because the foregrounds are as vibrant as they are. Perez is strongest when he has the opportunity for the unexpected reveal, composing the panel for maximum impact and thankfully there’s a handful to revel in here. There’s nothing terribly experimental in the layouts, which fits well with the straightforward (even if the subject matter is weird) story and there’s some clarity issues in terms of action transitions (there’s one constricted vertical panel that really stands out), but Perez’s enthusiasm for what he’s drawing is infectious.
Between the textures marble and the multitude of blended scale tones, Andrew Dalhouse delivers smart and polished colors this issue that match the upbeat tone in their saturation and subtlety enrich the environment it unfolds in. While the colors are certainly rich, there’s a ton of restrained application in play, much more so than in the previous arc over Portela, but that can be attributed to the contrasting settings. Here, Dalhouse brings a ton of controlled depth to the various dinosaur characters, especially Ank, through a softly blended palette that defines musculature and bone structure really effectively. Digital effects are used sparingly, but appropriately and the texturing is far less pronounced (for the better) when it comes to sponged applications in shadowed or craggy areas. It’s a well done package that shows Dalhouse at his best. Obviously, dinosaurs bring out the best in everyone.
“Just go with it, you’ll have fun” seems to be the mission statement of “Ending History” thus far and it’s hard to argue with the ideas being thrown out there by Van Lente and Perez. When they bring the silly, they bring it hard, son. It’ll be nice to shift back to more character-centric moments with Neela and to see how everything will form a cohesive tale when it’s all said and done, but there’s certainly something to admire about saying, “hey before we do that, check out these talking dinosaurs.” A bit of an aside that has some visual pacing hiccups, Ivar, Timwalker #10 is hard to refuse based on premise alone. With intelligent dialogue and rich, tonally harmonic art, this is a diversion worth pulling off the road to see.