Valiant Entertainment continues to expand their mythos by awarding the last Anni-Padda brother his own title in “Ivar, Timewalker” #1 by Fred Van Lente, Clayton Henry and Brian Reber. It’s an appropriately fun and briskly paced romp through the ages as Ivar comes to the present day to save the life of Neela Sethi, the young scientist who — ironically — invented time travel. Even more clever, he ensures her survival by traversing the two of them back and forth through the pathways of time, evading a group of Prometheans — villains that exist beyond the confines of our own dimension.
Van Lente knows what it takes to make a time-travel comic tick, and he crafts it precisely to make this introduction yet another must-read first issue from Valiant. Ivar shows up soon enough, but Van Lente first introduces Neela, giving readers a glimpse of her upbeat personality and family history. When Ivar appears, there’s a strong “Terminator” vibe as he plays the out-of-time rescuer to Neela’s Sarah Connor but it reads as more of a tribute than a swipe, even as her equally out-of-time pursuers hone in on her. Van Lente does paraphrase Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic “come with me if you want to live” line, but it includes a very clever turn of phrase that’s punctuated with an effectively designed splash page by Henry.
Ivar’s first time trip with Neela goes directly into a sampling of some actual historical high seas adventures from a couple of centuries ago, and Henry and Reber make it look plenty convincing with authentic uniforms and naval vessels, even with the two time-displaced players in the midst of it all. Ivar ensures that history takes place as planned as Van Lente utilizes an oft-used but always interesting element of time travel stories, where the story’s fictional character causes a real life event to pass. Van Lente also provides a plausible reason, at least in that wild sci-fi kind of way, as to how many of us are often losing small but important items. Henry’s panels are a little crowded at times, but the sequence ends with a sprawling double page spread that moves the story from the relatively recent past into the distant future.
Henry also brings a light touch to the characters, delineating their facial likenesses and making all involved convincing in their roles without trying to impress with photographic realism. Neela, with her white coat and traditional framed glasses, looks every bit the confident gifted scientist within her lab, but also becomes a convincingly overwhelmed civilian when dragged through the timestream. Ivar looks just as stoically confident as Van Lente scripts him, and the unfortunate historical figure who meets his end looks straight out of the history books.
Van Lente also comes up with a lot of cool-sounding scientific explanations for time travel and the nature of the Prometheans. It takes some pretty high level thinking to make sense of it, if it even makes sense at all, but it’s a nice touch of pseudo-science that gives this story a little extra punch. Time travel stories are frequently cliched as writers struggle to find something new to wring out of the idea, but Van Lente manages to stay away from many of them or at least freshen them enough to make this story more enjoyable.
The strength of Van Lente’s story is Neela, whose geek girl mindset has her utterly horrified at how her slightest misstep could alter the future or how out of place she feels in that very same future. She’s a refreshingly pleasant and unassuming character whose wide-eyed naÃ¯vete makes for a terrifically balanced dynamic against Ivar’s too-cool and casual demeanor. Van Lente also adds a slight arrogance to Ivar that punctuates his personality and makes Neela all the more incredulous.
There are other nods to classic time-travel stories; for instance, Raul Allen’s cover, with its circular rings of images from different eras, evokes the opening credits of the nigh-forgotten 1980 TV series “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” while retaining a unique look by way of its two-tone colors. At the other end of the issue, Van Lente delivers a genuine surprise as the story closes, which opens up questions that will cement readers’ decisions to pick up the next issue. “Ivar, Timewalker” #1 isn’t a groundbreaking time-travel story, as few are anymore, but all the creators involved add enough touches to make this well-trodden road seem a little less traveled.