By Fred Van Lente, Clayton Henry, Bit, Brian Reber, and Andrew Dalhouse
Now we’re cooking. Ivar, Timewalker is firmly in a time-hopping, Nazi-shooting, conflict-building groove with this third issue. Fred Van Lente’s script is the tightest its been thus far while still maintaining that sense of fun adventure and sarcastic humor, and Henry and Reber continue to deliver their bright blend of the emotionally resonant and bombastic action. Also, this issue: Hitler! Wait, that wasn’t meant as a selling point. Oh dear. Ivar, Timewalker #3 is the best issue yet of an already strong and refreshing Valiant Next title and the larger picture of where this series is headed begins to take shape. Time travel! Deception! Internet Trolls! Increased oxygen percentage in the Pennsylvanian! Confused? Don’t be; it’s science, bitches.
Van Lente has had Neela been led around by the hand a bit for the first two issues, which was understandable given the context (she literally had no idea what was happening) so it’s nice to see her get thrust firmly into the spotlight and in control of her own decisions here. Picking up right after the events of the prior issue, Neela meets up with everyone’s favorite immortal killing machine, Gilad Anni-Padda, and after a brief game of “you know that dude too?” sets off to rescue Ivar from Nazis. She’s fully in charge throughout the issue and despite her very relatable insecurities, she confidently handles all the challenges laid out here with hilarious quips and assertive disgust for stupidity. Beyond just further developing her character as someone coming to grips with their extraordinary circumstances, Van Lente also continues to plant seeds for the conflict between Neela and Ivar, and possibly between her and..well, future her. Even though it’s Ivar’s name on the cover of the book, it’s pretty clear that Neela is the key to everything happening and we’re only being thrown further into the rabbit hole this issue.
Clayton Henry is drawing a near-infinite amount of awesome things and doing it all awesomely well. That sense of adventure? Those legitimate chuckles? That’s all possible because of Henry’s abilities to convey emotion and compelling imaginative impossibilities. His figure work is a great blend of realistic cartooning that allows for a wide range of animated expressions and believable action; both of which are found in spades on every page in issue #3. Of particular note is his panel layouts here, with many overlapping, alternating size and transitioning to foreground and background, all of which reinforces the imagery of hopping through time established in earlier issues and assuring for a smooth, easy to follow story flow. There’s some barren backgrounds to be found this issue, but it does occur inside a bunker, so it’s more than apt. Henry is having fun and his clean line work and imaginative designs (the Lurker remains a favorite) are difficult to resist.
Further bolstering the tone and bringing out the best of Henry’s work, Brian Reber’s colors (with assists this issue by Andrew Dalhouse) are richly saturated and sharply textured. The book is romp and the colors never veer away from being bold and bright. Especially noticeable this issue was the textured fabric of the Nazi uniforms, which were convincingly tactile, and the craggy, sponged stone of the bunker walls. That sort of attention goes a long way to enriching the entirety of Ivar’s world, beyond just the glowing neon of temporal techno-babbled effects. Reber has long been one of Valiant’s premiere talents and this series may very well be his best to date. There’s a page where certain mechanical pursuers are lit aflame that utilizes lighting to great effect and goes to show the level of care he puts into each issue. The palette may not be as radical as some other titles out there, but it is pitch perfect for everything that Ivar is about and is an essential ingredient to delivering that indelible sense of adventure.
Instilled with genuine laugh-out loud moments, Ivar, Timewalker remains a book that is tonally lighthearted and carefree. The creative team is clearly having a blast and they’re asking you to hop into the pool too because this is about having an adventure. There are some darker elements, sure, but the scales are definitely and smartly tipped towards the “gonna draw a penis on his forehead” end. Van Lente has managed to inexplicably make this book feel like a slow burn, despite the fact that almost twenty gajillion things seemed to have already happened in the course of only three issues. But it’s all about that balance and issue #3 highlights that better than the others. The humor is placed within the overall structure to make it feel effortless and immensely entertaining to move through, but there’s clearly a lot of larger narrative structuring occurring behind the gags and one-liners. There’s a plan here and even though it knows exactly what degree to take itself serious (hint: not very) it’s offering sincere conflict and drama among an increasingly endearing inter-personal relationship between its leads. What in the name of Richard Wagner is going on here? One of the strongest titles in Valiant’s line-up and one that can be enjoyed all its own, if you’re up for honest to goodness adventure and a healthy dose of “wtf?” faces.