Ivar Anni-Padda doesn’t traverse the space-time continuum in a 1960s police box, own a sonic screwdriver, or possess a pair of hearts, but the similarities to a television program featuring a pronoun with a PhD are undeniable. I should qualify that by saying that my knowledge of Doctor Who comes from viewing a handful of the Christopher Eccleston episodes, its ubiquitous presence on the websites I frequent, and the constant disbelief from family and friends who cannot believe I’ve not embraced “all things geek.” Now that I’ve hopefully quelled any potential Whovian rage, Ivar, Timewalker does share the show’s predilection for having a not-quite-human male actively endanger the lives of his young, permission slip-less, time-traveling companions.

If there was any time I'd be apt to start watching Dr. Who, I'd be under Capaldi's watch.

If there was any time I’d be apt to start watching Doctor Who, It’d be under Capaldi’s watch.

You’re probably thinking, “Nick, I thoroughly enjoy time-travel narratives, and, unlike you, I partake in the Doctor Who phenomenon. But how approachable is Ivar, Timewalker for somebody that knows next to nothing about Valiant?” That’s a fair concern, especially considering that all of Valiant’s titles coexist within the same universe. While that’s true, I’d argue that said publisher’s books are carefully constructed to work as standalone titles, and only the more recent additions (such as Imperium) might require some supplemental reading. In the case of Ivar, Timewalker all one really needs to know is this: way, way back in the ancient Mesopotamian kingdom of Ur, a trio of brothers found a device called “The Boon.” The device, when activated in an attempt to revive the youngest of the three, bestowed powers of immortality, strength, and near-invulnerability upon the three…but not without consequences. The two other brothers, in case you were wondering, are Aram Anni-Padda (Armstrong of Archer and Armstrong) and Gilad Anni-Padda (the Eternal Warrior).

The Boon is not a toy.  It is not to be trifled with.  A lesson the Anni-Padda brothers learn a little too late.

The Boon is not a toy. It is not to be trifled with. A lesson the Anni-Padda brothers learn a little too late.

With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that helming Ivar, Timewalker is the team responsible for Archer and Armstrong’s award-winning revival in 2012: writer Fred Van Lente and artist Clayton Henry. And while that ensures that there’s no shortage of zany action sequences and self-aware humor to be found, readers of their previous Valiant series might find themselves wondering if (despite only having two issues out) Ivar, Timewalker does enough to distinguish itself from its brethren.

For all the potential convolutedness that could accompany a time-travel narrative, Van Lente (unsurprisingly) weaves a “jargon-lite” yarn…at least for the initial issue. As the title suggests, Ivar’s immortality has freed up a considerable chunk of free time for hobbies and the sort, and the eldest Anni-Padda isn’t really the type to settle in for the night with a 5,000 piece puzzle and HGTV reruns. Yes, instead of watching ranch-style homes get “flipped,” Ivar’s cobbled together a do-dad that allows him to detect and predict the presence of “timearcs,” naturally-occurring traversable wormholes that open and close within nanoseconds, and have “claimed countless pens, combs, sunglasses, lighters, and keys.” So, yes, he’s capable of time-traveling without procuring a DeLorean, British police box, popping into a hot tub, or having to don his birthday suit in the process.

It's a beautiful splash page and a wonderful riff on an Arnie quote all in one.

It’s a beautiful splash page and a wonderful riff on an Arnie quote all in one.

Why does he do it though? If the answer lies in Ivar’s recurring role in Archer and Armstrong, (a series I have not fully completed at the time of writing this) his efforts are best understood as an act of contrition, an attempt to prevent anyone else from using The Boon (something Archer’s parents were quite interested in reassembling). While this is hinted at in Ivar, Timewalker #1, the titular character’s motivations here are quite simple: to prevent Dr. Neela Sethi, a twentysomething physicist, from “inventing” time travel…or at least, one iteration of it.

Unsurprisingly, Neela reacts as one might expect one would to someone randomly appearing, and not only urging her to stop her experiments despite being on cusp of discovery after years of research, but that if she were to carry on with it, she’d “accidentally create the greatest single threat to every thing…in the history of the universe”: she clocks him upside the head, and calls security. Of course, she does end up joining Ivar when it’s revealed that he’s not the only time-traveler that’s set his sights on this brilliant researcher.

What separates Ivar from your run-of-the-mill fringe scientist attempting to navigate the time-space continuum? It’d probably be the fact that Van Lente’s take on “he who walks” is a man largely unconcerned with the inherent risks or “thou shalt nots” of time travel. Encountering future versions of yourself? No biggie. Informing people of their future contributions to history? We’ve all done worse things. And Ivar’s response to Neela highlighting these infractions? “You’ve seen too many movies.” One’s left grinning at the pop culture riffs and the “devil may cry” attitude Ivar sports, but underlying this show of bravado, one comes to question whether this recklessness stems from anything other than an ignorance of the risks he is taking. And, much like the role of the Geomancer in Valiant’s Eternal Warrior and The Doctor’s companions, we’re left wondering if Dr. Neela Sethi is the only one of the pair that’s truly in danger.

Apparently this is frowned upon in certain time travel circles.

Apparently this is frowned upon in certain time travel circles.

Interestingly enough, if the first issue introduced time travel as a carefree venture free of the technical elements that would otherwise harangue and bog down the book’s breakneck pace, Ivar, Timewalker #2 gets at the motivations and (at least some of) the mechanics underlying the process. Those chomping at the bit for answers are briefly sated when Neela kicks off page one asking Ivar if he’s “ever been tempted…to…try to change history?”

“Calling it a ‘temptation’ implies it’s actually possible,” is Ivar’s wry reply. So, that’s that then, right? One cannot time travel in hopes of altering history? If such is true, than what is the purpose of Ivar’s rescue/semi-kidnapping of Neela in the 21st Century? Does Ivar somehow exist outside of “the rules,” whatever those might be? Or, is it possible that Ivar, reminding himself of what was revealed at the end of the first issue, has adopted an approach of “selective honesty” in regards to Neela? The eldest Anni-Padda’s answers have a curious way of turning into further questions.

Seems simple enough of a task, right?

Seems simple enough of a task, right?

To his credit, Ivar does claim that catching the next timearc to Vienna, Austria around the turn of the Twentieth Century will allow him to illustrate Dr. Stephen Hawking’s Chronology Protection Conjecture. To Van Lente’s credit, he’s peppered the second issue with all sorts of interesting terms like this, just waiting to be Googled. Sure, the search results frequently put me in over my addled head when it comes to the subject matter, but Van Lente’s attempt to approachably integrate actual theorems and notions are appreciated.

For those curious, Hawking’s idea boils down to this: the laws of physics will not permit time travel. If time travel was possible, Hawking inquires just why we haven’t encountered any “time tourists.” It’s one of the many “Time Travel 101” topics that Van Lente deftly handles, while side-stepping many of the tropes and foibles this sort of narrative is prone to. In Ivar’s world, it would appear that time travel has a “look, can’t touch” approach. Alternatively, I suppose one can touch, but the universe will employ corrective measures to “prevent temporal tampering.” Which is nice and swell, except attentive readers will note that several scenarios in both issues (one involving the future leader of the Third Reich) leave one wondering just how concrete Mr. Anni-Padda’s assertion is.

Issue #2 does lay on the jargon where #1 did not, but all of it makes sense.

Issue #2 does lay on the jargon where #1 did not, but all of it makes sense.

As I touched on before, some (I suspect, most) readers will already be accustomed to Fred Van Lente’s style of writing, which encompasses characters with a Tarantino-rivaling penchant for pop culture and cutting edge scientific discovery, a self-deprecating narration that verges on being “meta,” and a strong interest in all things historical. Ivar, Timewalker embraces all of these elements that made 2012’s Archer and Armstrong an undeniable hit, while opting to take itself slightly more seriously. Sure, it lacks some of the more slapstick, sophomoric humor that Archer and Armstrong engaged in, and by the end of the second issue its assumed the position of “a superb adventure narrative that just so happens to have jokes,” instead of vice-versa. There are genuine stakes to be had in Ivar, Timewalker, and questions of trust and intent are abundant.

This is a cover for the fifth issue of Ivar, Timewalker.  It was just too awesome to ignore.  And those who want to complain that it spoils the presence of the other Anni-Padda brothers in this series, you've already gotten two cameos from one of them in the first two issues.  Go back and look more closely.

This is a cover for the fifth issue of Ivar, Timewalker. It was just too awesome to ignore. And those who want to complain that it spoils the presence of the other Anni-Padda brothers in this series, you’ve already gotten two cameos from one of them in the first two issues. Go back and look more closely.

Artistically, Clayton Henry remains one of my favorite pencilers, and Ivar, Timewalker only reinforces this position of high regard. He doesn’t have one of those photorealistic styles, or one that is decidedly “out there” like Andrea Sorrentino or Jock, but Henry has an amazing ability to effortlessly convey a wide variety of facial emotions with a minimal amount of lines. Neela’s unrepentant scowl when Ivar tells her that she is “about to invent time travel” (Van Lente’s emphasis) is proof enough for me. Bottom line, Henry completely sells the jokes Van Lente’s penning, and one can’t help but think that such is the payoff for the two of them having worked together for several years now.

Equally impressive is Henry’s ability to render the myriad of epochs our resident Timewalker and friend/assistant/cohort/requisite Doctor of Physics encounter. Whenever I encounter a book where the artist is thrown a real hodgepodge of genres/characters/eras, I generally expect there to be a drop-off in detail when the artist veers outside of his or her (or the title’s) bread and butter. Call me an optimist, I know. Yet Henry’s equally comfortable drawing early 19th Century naval battles as he is New Japan, circa 4001, as well as everywhere in between…and beyond! And people, I use exclamation points sparingly.

Love the panel layout, as well as Henry's talent at action scenes.

Love the panel layout, as well as Henry’s talent at action scenes.

So how does Ivar, Timewalker stack up in the end? Well, as I’ve touched on, it’s inevitable that comparisons have been drawn to Archer and Armstrong. It’s the same creative team, same publisher, same universe, and possesses quite a few of the (you guessed it) same characters. And, while there’s nothing wrong with being lumped in with Valiant’s non-costumed duo, it’s best not to think of Ivar, Timewalker as Archer and Armstrong’s “identical twin,” but rather as his “older brother.” See what I did there?

Sure, Ivar, Timewalker is an undeniably banter-driven energetic romp that manages to stand on the shoulders of other time-traveling epics, while simultaneously dismantling the tropes and clichés of the genre. Yet if one digs deeper, beneath this slick veneer of portals and Ivar’s permanently windswept hair, there are some salient and weighty topics to be tackled. Amongst these are questions of family legacies, creators staring down the unintended consequences of their discoveries, and whether or not one can trust a fourth dimension navigator that doles out information on a “need to know” basis. Ivar, Timewalker is another feather in Valiant’s heavily-plumed hat, an accessible and relatable tale, and above all, a gorgeous read that knows how to effectively inject jokes without slowing the pace to accomplish such.

Ivar, Timewalker can be purchased at your Local Comic Shop or Comixology.

Overall Score
93 %

Ivar, Timewalker is an energetic and thoughtful take on the "tried and true" time travel narrative. Van Lente's jokes land more often than not, and Henry's pencils end up drawing everything but the kitchen sink (though, in retrospect, I wouldn't doubt if there actually was one). Those looking for a Valiant title to try, or craving something (slightly) in the same vein as Archer and Armstrong would be wise to check this out.

Writing 94%
Pencils 92%
Colors 92%

About The Author

Growing up, Nick White dreamed of a career with the Chicago Bulls. This is because he was young and stupid, and his parents were of the "you can do ANYTHING" mentality.

When he was older, and probably not a whole lot smarter, Nick purchased Alan Moore's From Hell on a whim (that in itself probably says a lot). He was astounded to find that comics were as bizarre and twisted as his beloved Twin Peaks. After that he bought Batman: The Black Mirror strictly on the cover's aesthetics (Who the hell is Scott Snyder?" he said) and hasn't looked back since. Except, of course, in situations that necessitate such.

When he's not "busy" playing Castlevania or harassing Zander about what he ought to be reading, Nick continues to work on his makeshift shrine to Jeff Lemire.

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