Unpredictability is a double edged sword; amazing for those skilled enough to use it and deadly for those who are not. Fortunately, writer Fred Van Lente’s skill with it seems to be as apt as that of the pre-historic version of Ivar himself as this issue continues the current arc’s path towards one satisfyingly unpredictable episode after the next. After seeming to go where few time travel comics have gone before with issue eight, the script has been flipped from the previous half dozen issues to exciting results. Once more, Van Lente teams up with artist Pere Perez and colorist Andrew Dalhouse to create another amazing time travel adventure with plenty of action, humor, and some unexpected depth within twenty-two pages.
When the series began, Ivar Anni-Padda was the experienced time-walker and Neela Sethi was the neophyte having to learn the rules on the fly. After sacrificing himself to stop a future version of Neela from destroying the time stream for the sake of nihilism, the current version is once again trying to bend the rules of time to bring back someone she loves. This time she may have more success, by plucking the ancient B.C. version of Ivar from the past and hoping to teach him as well as his counterpart taught her in the ways of time travel. Unfortunately, the entire time stream has been broken to the point that the duo keep stumbling into one doomed alternate universe after the next. This time, they’ve wound up in a world where the dinosaurs evolved rather than died, and rule over all mammals and herbivores with a clawed fist in Roman style fashion. Thankfully, Neela has been mistaken for her counterpart by Caesar Invictus (who as a Tyrannosaurus Rex is a literal tyrant) and uses this confusion to try to figure out a way out of this mess. Unfortunately, Ivar has been mistaken for yet another mammal and been tossed into the gladiator’s arena with other doomed herbivores and enemies of the state. Teaming up with the green hulking Ank, he has to survive long enough for things to sort out.
An issue with both dinosaurs, ancient Roman architecture and gladiator brawls play to the strengths of artist Pere Perez, who once again knocks the panels out of the park. It’s great to see modern scientific facts play a part as most of the dinosaur-people here have feathers (with plucking being seen as a humiliating punishment). The premise and the green Ank may remind some savvy readers of Marvel’s “Planet Hulk” storyline, written by frequent Fred Van Lenta collaborator Greg Pak, even though such stories have been old since the time of Spartacus. The B.C. era Ivar is more of a barbarian than a schemer, which suits this issue well as he turns the tables on his captors quickly. In terms of the script, Van Lente provides plenty of amusing one liners and comedic bits, but also can always pull a dramatic turn on a dime. Many of Ank’s lines about the folly of dictatorships land true, managing to keep things from becoming too farcical. Watching Neela struggle to pull off the role of time elder is entertaining to see, as she usually finds herself over her head and literally in competition with herself. The end result is a fun time travel escapade where the challenges seem endless and there seems to be no easy solution in sight – which is a perfect combination for adventures that don’t grow stale.
Naturally, this is a status quo that can’t last forever, as even it may fall victim to routine. That said, if subsequent parallel timelines are even half as imaginative and entertaining as these last two, most readers should be in no rush to abandon the formula. Once again, Valiant Entertainment’s “Ivar, Timewalker” remains a blast from cover to cover, and looks to continue to be for quite some time ahead.