By Fred Van Lente, Francis Portela, Andrew Dalhouse, and Dave Sharpe
Take note, nerds, as Ivar lays it out for you: “only when you try to put things into a fixed place in a larger context – into a ‘continuity’ if you will – do you fall into error and confusion.” In other words; chill out and keep it simple, bro. With a flair of metatextual snark and heavy dose of humorous brotherly space action, Ivar, Timewalker #7 continues to be one of the most satisfyingly confounding reads you’re likely to find in this time or any other. Where else are you going to find puke-propulsion space physics? Repulsion propulsion, if you will.
Fred Van Lente is having fun. Beyond the subtle, well-meaning poking and prodding at comics fandom he’s encouraging readers to remember that the best attitude to have when reading outrageously impossible stories is to just go with it. Message boards, continuity-sticklers, science-fiction aficionados, whatever…have some fun and revel in the ridiculousness a little because there’s plenty of heart and smart storytelling on display that can be missed if you get too wrapped up in the drudge of minutiae. As always, Van Lente’s blend of quippy dialogue and sharp, rapid pacing makes for a well-balanced read that progresses plot without sacrificing nuanced character development.
While Neela remains both the breakout star of this series and the emotional center of this story, Van Lente certainly shows this issue why Ivar’s name is the one gracing the cover. Arrogant and often emotionally disconnected, if not vague at best, Ivar here carries with him a burden that occasionally breaks through the cracks in his confident veneer. When the entirety of space-time is your playground, the act of simply “knowing” weighs heavy on one’s shoulders and Ivar still certainly cares for his brothers; even if they’re not as immortal as we’ve been led to believe. One of Van Lente’s best accomplishments with this arc is being able to capture the essence of each of these Anni-Padda brothers and their eon’s long relationship with each other without asking the reader to have read anything prior. It’s accessible without being pared down and even if the characters often seem singularly minded (save the future, save Neela, booze) they’re still a breadth of dimension in how they relate to each other. The added sense of responsibility (to Neela, to his brothers, to the past, present and future) gives Ivar, ever the man with the plan, a touch of much needed humility here; even if its buoyed by some on-point shots at comic killjoys.
Between the multitudes of menacing mechanical nanite weaponry, a delicious smirk of satisfaction, a forceful kick to the mid-section, and yes, even the putrid surprise of vomit-fueled space travel, this issue highlights Francis Portela’s best work on the series yet. Portela’s rendering of Ivar remains strong, capturing the humble grimaces and smug smirks that reveal more about his personality than his confident dialogue would have you believe, but the action beats this issue are the real standout. Panels flow together in a sequence of cause and effect seamlessly as the brothers Anni-Padda confront and dispose of the red threat (no, not communists) in a sequence of “hells yeah, bro!” inducing teamwork.
Incorporating a nice mix of perspectives (the aforementioned kick to the mid-section in particular) Portela jeeps the panel layouts pretty straightforward, focusing instead on keeping the moment to moment time lapses tight and effective. Seeing the variety of contraptions, replete with all manner of barrels, tubes and general future-y tech that the nanite guard manifests on his arm are really well done, as is its eventual fate. Despite Portela’s penchant for expressive facial mannerisms with Ivar, and Neela as well, there’s still mannequin stiffness to most other characters, specifically in regards to their mouths. Luckily these instances are rare, though noticeable, and Portela’s overall use of anatomy to convey humor and forceful motion are a perfect match for Van Lente’s “wait, what?” laden script.
Adding a heavy, but not overwrought, dose of texture and ambiance are Andrew Dalhouse’s colors. Richly applied and bright in thematic tone, Dalhouse adds heft to the fabrics of space and cloth alike. The gritty texture of the nanite guard or the (ugh) convincing blend of vacated stomach contents add without detracting from the finished pencil and inks. It’s a smooth finish, and not all together clean as it intentionally explores tonal gradients on a variety of surfaces such as skin and the metallic features of the Prometheans. The backgrounds are thankfully subtle without veering into being drab despite the sterile space station setting and are balanced well with the more digitally rendered expanses of space, as well as the fun monotone splash of the brothers throughout time.
Don’t suck the fun out of the adventure by trying to piece together the finer intricate grains of time travel physics, lest you wind up as nihilistically jaded as The Null. Just go with it and allow for the clever blend of humor and sci-fi swashbuckling to take hold. Pithy banter, real stakes, richly relatable characters, and lively action combine once again to make Ivar, Timewalker dare you to have as much fun as the creators clearly are.