By Fred Van Lente, Francis Portella, Andrew Dalhouse, and Dave Sharpe
Bro, do you even time travel? Seriously, bro, it’s time for Fred Van Lente, Francis Portella, and Andrew Dalhouse to get Anni-Padda as hell up in here. Ivar, Timewalker #6 stays lockstep with the established balance of humor, sci-fi whimsy, and action as it thrusts forward with confident abandon. It’s smart and irreverent at once, while very clearly serving as yet another intricate cog in the larger narrative machine that’s been slowly whirling amongst the science and facepalms. Neela remains one of the best new characters introduced not only at Valiant, but anywhere, and seeing her highs and lows (sometimes at the same time) is an empathetic treat. Oh, and the Lurker is back again so that level of truly exquisite (read: deplorable) characterization is well worth your time, you #n00b rofl zomg.
After the thoroughly enjoyable and capricious opening arc that certainly had a thematic tie to Doctor Who and the like, this second arc is feeling a little more dour. That’s not to say it’s joyless, far from it, but following the introductory fun of meeting these characters and laying out the time-traveling rules of this universe, Van Lente is upping the threat level here. Having already recruiting his brothers (the delightfully oafish Armstrong and the austere Eternal Warrior) last issue, Ivar is kicking his plan into gear. Van Lente isn’t revealing much about what exactly that plan is, outside of needing to have the Lurker and his…infinite wisdom, let’s say, build a ship that can penetrate Future Neela’s Oblivi-1 base of operations and presumably rescue Present Neela. Ivar certainly has far more complex machinations in motion, but Van Lente is intentionally providing the bare bones in order to balance this issue’s script between cantankerous brotherly quarrels and Neela’s tribulations.
While Gilad and Armstrong’s goading and quips feel ever so slightly unnatural, Van Lente’s character work with Neela remains very strong. Despite the insanity of her situation (y’know, at the end of time with a crazy half-robot version of herself from the future as a prisoner/volunteer to essentially invent time travel) she still celebrates her successes in thoroughly real language and action and Van Lente also has her, refreshingly, ask the questions that the reader is no doubt thinking as well. That sort of dialogue seemed absent earlier on in this series, but it’s now become a staple of how Neela operates. She was always our “in” to this carnival of crazy and to have her tell her future self that she’s thoroughly failing the Bechdel test while questioning why it is that her future self is surprised by anything her past self does, is thoroughly satisfying. Between Ivar and her captor-self, Neela has trust issues and the dichotomy of being both the trapped and the trapper is unquestionably fun. There’s a pretty spot-on metaphor for you, but it’s not overplayed as such and instead serves as an added dimension to a story that is about mucking around with the time stream on the surface and about learning to find yourself underneath.
Portella and Dalhouse combine for an art effort that perfectly matches the established tone of “Fun!” meets “Science, Bitches!” meets “I will murder your face!” Valiant doesn’t truly have a “house style” but Portella’s approach is relatively close to what one could consider that. Turning his character’s into full-fledged living actors this issue, the facial expressions are great and totally sell the intended comedy and/or face-murdering rage inherent in the dialogue. Portella has a good sense for pacing, specifically in the more action-oriented sequence, and delivers appropriate heft to his figures while keeping all the detritus finely detailed. The interior design of the dry dock station the Anni-Padda’s are crashing isn’t mind blowing, but Portella never once skimps on detailing the multiple indentations, seams, and paneling found throughout the issue. The more animated characters really pop because of that level of care to the background and other assorted staging that help convey the tactility of this book’s varied alien surrounds. The rendering of this issue’s Anni-Padda hunting security system in action is also particularly well done and evocative of an entomologist’s worst nightmare.
As much a storyteller as his collaborators, Andrew Dalhouse’s colors, especially his texturing, are a large part of carrying that playful tone. The vivid palette is buoyed with a myriad of textural layering that adds depth to the fabrics, armor and space-goodness throughout, even if the shadowing is perhaps a little overdone on some of the faces in places. More often than not though, Dalhouse brings new life to Portella’s pencils, helping to indicate a wry smile or a furrowed brow, as well as infuse an explosion with vigorous force. The brighter flare-like effects (a projected hologram, the edge of a rip in timespace, etc.) are well utilized and the colors glow and hum beautifully when the vast expanse of space is shown.
Ivar, Timewalker is an absolute blast and this issue more than capably continues this book’s mission statement of having fun first and foremost, while still managing to successfully craft well-rounded characters on a search for what it means to take control of your life. Neela is literally lying to herself and attempting to circumvent an event in her life that she’s let define and motivate her, and now she’s got three immortal brothers (one of whom hasn’t been particularly honest with her either, by the way) hoping to rescue her from the edge of time’s end before she can do what has already been established can happen. Whoa, fate is srsly #craycray, amirite? With art that heightens the comedy and drama alike, Ivar, Timewalker #6 is yet another successful entry in a series that has yet to disappoint.