Reading the opening sequence of Ivar, Timewalker #1, you’re bound to be reminded of Terminator 2: Judgement Day. There’s a super powerful man who emerges from the time stream in order to protect a young person who does not yet realize their significance to the future. Then the title page arrives and it becomes clear that Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry are absolutely aware of the parallels, and they’ve opted to play into it with a wonderfully presented joke. Yes, there are plotting similarities between the two stories, but the dark, oppressive mood of the film is replaced in Ivar, Timewalker by an incredible sense of fun.
Ivar, Timewalker #1 defies genre description taking elements of science fiction, adventure, and superhero tales, then throwing in a dash of horror on the final page. It’s a romp through time and space that manages to be silly (flirting while cannonballs zoom overhead), smart (references of significant naval battles and lesser known historical figures), and dangerous (cold-blooded murder) all in the span of a few pages. Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry showed before that they could tell a fun, historical adventure story in Archer & Armstrong, and here they prove their success to be anything but an accident.
Van Lente has always had a penchant for finding the joy within whatever story he is telling. It doesn’t matter whether the subject matter is inane or deadly serious, he discovers what will allow readers to enjoy the experience. The trick of Ivar, Timewalker #1 isn’t that Van Lente stuffs each page full of jokes (he doesn’t), but that he draws out the lighter side of each new situation. The danger and risks of this debut aren’t denied, but they are not allowed to entirely consume the story either.
This comes from Van Lente’s sense of character. Neela Sethi, a scientist about to discover time travel, and Ivar, an immortal who can step through time, form the core of this issue. They are strangers to one another and their interactions make excellent opportunities for both characterization and humor. Sethi plays the straight man (albeit a panicked, confused straight man) to Ivar’s robust confidence and joy in running between the Battle of Trafalgar and year 4001. It’s another duo that is every bit as fun to see play off one another as Archer and Armstrong.
Henry is a fine comics storyteller and his compositions are consistently clear and coherent. It is direct communication that occasionally takes the opportunity to step above itself and play with the page or reader. The title page in which Ivar is presented to reflect a classic scene in Terminator 2 is an example of Henry winking at the reader without going so far as to distract from the story. Readers unfamiliar with the film won’t miss a beat.
The highlight of Ivar, Timewalker #1 comes in the form of a spread showing Ivar and Sethi tumbling through time. Henry draws a diagonal across the page to follow the action and places various time periods in the background. They emerge as panels revealing the unlimited potential of this premise and the fast pace at which the story is evolving. It is a fun spread that underlines why this is such an enjoyable read.
Ivar, Timewalker #1 is another very enjoyable debut from Valiant Entertainment. Van Lente and Henry’s first series for the publisher, Archer & Armstrong, continues to be one of the funniest and most endearing there. Ivar, Timewalker contains the same blend of charm and wit that could easily launch it to similar heights.