- Writer: Fred Van Lente
- Artist: Clayton Henry
- Colourist: Brian Reber
- Letters: Dave Sharpe
- Cover Artist: Raul Allen
- Publisher: Valiant Comics
- Release Date: 22 Apr 2015
For all that this is a comic called Ivar, Timewalker, I have thought for a while that the main protagonist/character is actually Dr. Neela Sethi. Having read issue #4, this impression has only been solidified.
Ivar is around, of course, and is easily a main character as well, but his actions completely revolve around his mysterious relationship with Neela (thanks to the weirdness of time-travel, her first meeting with him is not his first meeting with her, and so they have a history that we don’t have all the details about). It is Neela who undergoes the greatest character development, particularly in this latest issue which is 95% Neela and 5% Ivar.
Really, the book being named after him is almost like how the famous novel Rebecca is named after a character who doesn’t even appear in any of the book’s pages–it works for dramatic effect. No complaints here, though, because I think Ivar, Timewalker is a great title, but I also completely love how this book is actually about an Indian lady physicist and how she copes after being thrown into a crazy chronological adventure. And her great chemistry with this kinda hot red-haired time-traveller.
In Ivar, Timewalker #4, Neela has abandoned Ivar so that she can go back in time and save her father. But as we progress through the issue, it becomes clear that the universe’s protections against time-travel will not make this an easy task. She has to become increasingly creative in thinking up news ways to prevent her father’s death, but is continuously, frustratingly foiled. As her desperation heightens, the complete senselessness of her father’s tragic end becomes painfully clear to the reader.
I started out the issue shaking my head at Neela–“trying to change time, doesn’t she know that never ends well?” But I ended it feeling, very keenly, her rage, frustration and desperation in just wanting to correct this one, senseless injustice of the universe, but being stopped at every, single turn.
In the end, each and every variation of Neela as she attempts this task ends up at a bar, collectively commiserating together (because time-travel, and apparently because meeting yourself doesn’t not end the universe, at least not in this book)–and I am probably not doing this scene, or the entire issue, any justice, but it truly needs to be read to be properly appreciated.
And then the final Neela shows up to take her rightful place: cybernetic future Neela, who tells present Neela (now sporting a funky short haircut) that she can still save Dad Sethi–she just needs to “break history”. Easy, right?
Present Neela wonders why Ivar didn’t tell her this was possible, and it’s up to the reader to wonder: did he want to keep it from her because it actually is a horrible, dangerous idea, or because of his own selfish reasons? Further, is Future Neela genuinely the villain of the piece, as she has been primed by the story to be? Or did we just assume so (because Ivar said so), based on the preconceived notion that Ivar has to be the good guy? Or is writer Fred van Lente just trying to mess without our brains? Either way, I love that this is a book that challenges the reader to think about everything we’ve been told. To consider not only the characters whose journeys we are reading about, but in fact everything we think we know about time-travel.
And as I’ve mentioned before, this book straight up wouldn’t work if artist Clayton Henry didn’t have the uncanny ability to translate Fred van Lente’s complex script into an action-packed, gripping tale. His choice of layouts for each sequence ensures maximum drama, while maintaining the high pace. Huge kudos to him for managing to draw almost a dozen different variations of Neela with aplomb. And the settings! Gosh. You’ve got hospital scenes, car crashes, and even Ivar on a mysterious planet with a freaky giant scorpion for the whole two pages he actually shows up (which are very useful pages, nonetheless–and such is Fred van Lente’s uncanny writing ability that Ivar is a likeable, charming sort of guy who the reader is also rooting for), but neither Henry’s sequential art, nor Brian Reber’s colours, miss a single beat.
Changing history through time-travel is a concept that has been exhausted thoroughly across multiple media, but by slowly unveiling the intense emotional component of the story, van Lente, Henry, et al., ensure Ivar, Timewalker #4 stands out as an exquisitely crafted and evocative take on an old idea. If the creative team continue pushing moral and philosophical quandaries with such thoughtfulness, wit, and heart-racing action, they’ll quickly have a veritable modern time-travel classic on their hands.
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