When is a time loop not a time loop? That may be the question that this series seeks to answer in a broader sense. For this month’s issue, however, it goes beyond expectations with a cliffhanger that goes far enough that one may wonder if the title of the series will have to change next month. Despite an over the top plot involving the literal end of all space and time – a bombastic threat which is fairly common in comic books – writer Fred Van Lente, artist Francis Portela and colorist Andrew Dalhouse succeed by making sure to keep things personal. In the end, this series is all about two people, albeit from varying points of time.
Immortal time traveler Ivar Anni-Padda has sought to involve himself in the life of young Dr. Neela Sethi, who was destined to invent time travel in order to try to reverse her father’s untimely death. It turns out that Neela’s greatest enemy is herself – a literal future version of herself that has become a cyborg worshiping total cosmic nihilism (or, “The Null”, as introduced in earlier “Archer & Armstrong” comics). Neela split from Ivar due to his puzzling and secretive nature, but has found that allying with herself has been a far worse bargain. Now, Neela finds herself at the center of a plot to end everything which Ivar is seeking to foil alongside both of his immortal brothers (the eternal warrior Gilad and the eternal boozer Armstrong) and Amelia Earhart herself. Things come to a head as space ships crash into space fortresses, groups of nanobot built men duel and black holes to escape. In the end, it all comes down to a showdown with Future Neela (or perhaps “Cyber Neela”) which teases at the possibility that as usual, Ivar has been mucking through time far longer than he implies and that his relationship with Neela herself stretches even farther than that.
Aside for a few one liners, this issue is played straightforwardly; this is good as the stakes have rarely been higher for this series. The climatic battle allows Portela and Dalhouse to showcase their skills. Highlights include a two page spread following Future Neela and the warring nanobot men as well as at least two embraces between Ivar and Neela from opposite ends of the spectrum. Whether or not one can truly escape fate or destiny has long been a critical trope of time travel stories, and this one is no exception.
In the short term, the reader may wonder if a time traveler can ever truly be destroyed. If so, the fourth issue showcased that Fred Van Lente has more than enough imagination and energy for Neela Sethi to be the star when he must. Yet that would seem to be a simple reading of this issue, while a more thoughtful one is open to the possibility that this entire run may tie up neatly into a bow with the sort of elegant tapestry which is usually reserved for only the best stories of this genre (such as “Back to the Future”). In a market where a series such as this has to literally complete with three “Doctor Who” series, “Ivar, Timewalker” is a series which will always keep one guessing and always keep one entertained with its’ mix of adventure, emotion, and comedy. As always, it is not a series to let escape from the shades of time.