Best Shots Advance Reviews: INVISIBLE REPUBLIC #1, SOUTHERN CROSS #1, EI8HT #1, More

Stray #1 cover
Credit: Action Lab Entertainment
Credit: Image Comcis

Invisible Republic #1
Written by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko
Art by Gabriel Hardman and Jordon Boyd
Published by Image Comics
Review by Scott Cederlund
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Gabriel Hardman and Corrina Bechko’s Invisible Republic #1 looks like it should be a big science fiction story. There are clear and obvious trappings of sci-fi in this story - the outer space setting, the futuristic 2843 date and the space ships. These are also all the least important parts of this comic book. As the central galactic government collapses, reporter Croger Babb is on one of the outer worlds trying to find out what it means to the disenfranchised people when he discovers an even bigger story. Invisible Republic #1 exposes secrets and politics as the collapsing governments lead Babb to stumble accidentally upon an old journal of Maia Reveron, an unknown woman who shares a dark secret with her cousin that could change everything.

The world that Babb is trying to find a news story on is an old and lived-in one. It’s run down and dirty. Even when they move outside of Babb’s present and into Maia’s past, there’s nothing futuristic, shiny or even nice about this setting. Babb’s grimy city dissolves into Maia’s harsh seashores, showing a world that is anything but welcoming or hospitable. Maia and her cousin Arthur look more like shipwrecked survivors than futuristic citizens and Babb is simply just another embedded reporter stuck in a war torn providence. Hardman’s artwork doesn’t sugarcoat this reality. Hardman and Bechko open their new Image series with a story that could take place at anytime. Their choice to make the story not rooted to its futuristic setting opens up this reality to one we can just as easily imagine as happening now as we can imagine it happening eight centuries in our future.

Their storytelling is quite cinematic. In the past 10 to 15 years, we’re so used to describing comics as “widescreen” that we almost use “cinematic” as a synonym but it’s not really that. Bechko and Hardman’s style of cinematic storytelling has been seen throughout their careers, from obvious books like Planet of the Apes to Hardman’s solo effort Kinski. Every image in Invisible Republic #1 serves the story. Hardman uses a cinematographer’s eye to compose this story. Hardman’s art is stunning to look at not because of its obvious effort and storytelling pyronetics but because it is Hardman’s storytelling clearly and wonderfully complements the story. The earthiness of his art combined with the clarity of the juxtaposition of images, time and story that drives the focused storytelling that frames your experience of the comic.

It may be a cliche to tell your story using a reporter who is trying to find that story, but it's a fantastic device that allows the storytellers to work on multiple levels. Using Babb as the eyes and ears of the reader in this issue, Bechko and Hardman get to tell multiple, related stories. With Babb and Maia's stories unfolding, we get a before and after image for this series. We see a bit of what presaged these events and what the result has been while Bechko and Hardman open up the mystery of what happened to this world. Invisible Republic #1 is all about those mysteries. It's not world building that they're practicing here but world revealing. The world is familiar enough that they don't need to walk us through it to explain it to us. Instead they reveal the world to us, revealing the specific details of these worlds and characters.

Credit: Image Comics

Southern Cross #1
Written by Becky Cloonan
Art by Andy Belanger and Lee Loughridge
Lettering by Serge LaPointe
Published by Image Comics
Review by Forrest C. Helvie
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Southern Cross is a science fiction horror series that tells the story of Alex Braith – a self-professed "black sheep" who is boarding the Southern Cross transit ship to pick up the remains of her recently deceased sister and seek some answers to her sibling's death. Although Becky Cloonan has been garnering a good deal of attention and praise for her mainstream work as of late, this issue returns the writer to her creator-owned roots. The series also takes artist Andy Belanger (Kill Shakespeare) in a new creative direction as well, moving him from beyond the world of the Early Modern Era (laced with fantasy elements) to one that is centuries beyond our own. The question, then, is whether or not readers will see Image generate yet another smash hit when this issue hits stands on March 11 or if it will take a little more time to develop.

Although placed in a sci-fi setting, it seems clear that Cloonan's interests are much more in line with that of horror and noir. She does a fine job of combining elements of both, and it recalls Blade Runner to some extent from the questionable protagonist who lets readers into her thoughts to the dark, brooding environment where mystery and strange people with unknown motivations abound.

Admittedly, I went into this issue wanting to like it. Cloonan's work on her independent publications has been some of the strongest in the industry. In the lead up to the release of Southern Cross, Andy Belanger stated that "“I think the scariest stories, the most successful thrillers are the ones that start as a subtle tease, then build to bloody crescendo." In relation to this first issue though, I can't help but wonder if the tension required to pique reader curiosity was lost a bit. Few pages turns played into the serialized format to force this reader to question “What will happen next?” Instead, much of the story focuses on introducing Alex (and the reader) to the various characters who will show up later – the first mate, the doctor, the pilot, the investigator, and others – all the while trying to provide the reader with a visual tour of the ship where the story will unfold. In attempting to introduce everyone, however, we don't really get to know much about anyone to make them truly interesting or intriguing. Like a curious looking stranger we pass in the hallway, they may catch our attention for a brief moment, but there isn't much left to leave us looking for more. The result is this felt much more like the first chapter of a graphic novel and less like a monthly issue. No doubt, Cloonan is carefully seeding plotlines that will come to fruition in future issues, and as Southern Cross finds its legs, I've no doubt that bloody crescendo will pay off into the type of story she writes so well.

There were a few moments where Belanger does a fantastic job of grabbing the reader's attention with a number of epic shots of the Southern Cross transport amid the bluish-black space. Lee Loughridge's colors also help drive home the cold, antiseptic world of Southern Cross as well with a flatter, more muted palette – with the exception of those few moments when he applies an icy blue or blazing yellow to capture the reader's eye. Moreover, his color choices underscore the horror and mystery elements of Cloonan's story, whereas a more dynamic and highly rendered palette would have mistakenly placed a greater emphasis on the science fiction setting. The only drawback to the art, which is more of a product of the story, is that there just didn't seem to be enough of the eye-catching moments from Belanger and Loughridge.

Overall, Southern Cross has two creators who have a proven record of strong storytelling; however, this first issue just seemed to be too bogged down with world-building to build sufficient tension and connect with readers on an emotional level. No doubt, it's the sort of story that will need some time to get its feet firmly established, but once it does, expect Cloonan and Belanger to fully flex their storytelling muscles.

Credit: Image Comics

Bitch Planet #3
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by Robert Wilson IV and Cris Peter
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics
Review by Kelly Richards
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Bitch Planet #3 stands as the first of this series' special third issues, in which the creative team will welcome a guest artist and direct the narrative toward the backstory of one of the off-world penitentiary’s inmates. This issue focuses on Penelope "Penny" Rolle, repeat offender with numerous citations for "aesthetic offences." Bold, beautiful and bad, her very existence is borderline criminal.

Set primarily away from the prison and the main story arc, the reader is given a first-hand view as to what it takes for a woman to be considered compliant in DeConnick’s all-too-real dystopian future. Penny is constantly forced to shrink herself, to hold her tongue, to behave and to deny who she is, if she is ever to see herself and be seen by others through "the fathers' eyes." The same fathers who claim to love her and only want what’s best for her; the same fathers who have imprisoned her for being true to herself and expect a thank you in return. The same fathers that run the world, by policing women in both body and mind.

The dialogue is razor-sharp, and at times makes for uncomfortable reading as DeConnick tackles body politics, racism, and systematic, internalized, and flagrant misogyny. The commentary on which takes Bitch Planet up a notch or 20, to jarring results. Paired with a story that shows a woman being pushed to breaking point and ultimately imprisoned, this book is not something you will forget about five minutes after you have finished reading it. Bitch Planet is going to stay with you. It might even make you a better person.

Joining Kelly Sue DeConnick and colorist Cris Peter is guest artist Robert Wilson IV. With a somewhat softer edge than Valentine De Landro, Wilson’s renderings of the ideal women and the seemingly superior men of Bitch Planet stand in stark contrast to Penny Rolle. Every inch of whom is framed as a rebellion. Nothing of Penny, from her hair to her size are compliant, especially when viewed next to Wilson's Stepfordian creations. Penny’s smirk in the very last panel is truly one of triumph, as DeConnick and Wilson defiantly declare that nothing will break this woman.

Cris Peter’s colors are incredibly effective in charting Penny’s struggle to outwardly comply with a system she clearly does not trust or believe in. The candy colors of Penny’s youth gradually become muddied and muted as her story progresses, with white and washed-out blues dominating the scenes set within the prison and making them appear almost clinical. The transition is slow but noticeable, most so in the cut between Mother Sebertling’s rose-colored office and the gray walls of the Born Big Bakery.

For many women, the subjects raised with in this issue are neither something of the past nor are they the nightmarish visions of a future that keep them up at night. They are their reality. They are my reality. DeConnick has blurred the lines between what is fact and what is fiction via the way of exploitation movies and packaged it between 32 beautifully illustrated pages. Closing with an essay from Megan Carpentier, U.S. opinion editor of the Guardian, and a back page there is as gut wrenching as it in tongue-in-cheek - half stomach-churning stats on domestic violence, half ways to spend your hard-earned money. Aggressively, unapologetically feminist in both tone and content, and unsettling in a way that will leave you on edge, Kelly Sue DeConnick is undoubtedly doing some of her best work to date with Bitch Planet.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Ei8ht #1
Written by Mike Johnson and Rafael Albuquerque
Art by Rafael Albuquerque
Lettering by Nate Piekos
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Time colors all perceptions. But what happens when color changes your perception of time?

Color is something that's often overlooked in comics, even though a good colorist often makes the difference between a stunning comic and an unreadable mess. But in Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson's Ei8ht, color plays a role beyond simple atmosphere. There's a narrative purpose laid out from the very first page: "The past is green. The present is purple. The future is blue. The Meld is something else entirely." While Albuquerque and Johnson give readers few answers in this first installment, the visuals are so dynamic that you'll be excited to discover what comes next.

One of the smartest moves that Albuquerque and Johnson make in their story is that they put their protagonist in the same boat as we're in: Joshua, the survivor of a downed time-travel ship, has no memory of who he was or where he came from, forcing him to cobble together his backstory as the same time as the audience. The premise is taut with tension, and there's just enough a hook with the exposition that you're dying to figure out where this story is headed. To make this story even more dynamic, Albuquerque and Johnson pace out the flashbacks to take place when Joshua is underdoing physical distress - it means that each scene is timed with purpose, and that each revelation comes at exactly the right moment.

But let's be honest here - none of this would matter much without the virtuoso artwork of Rafael Albuquerque. And in particular, his sense of color. Most of the time, coloring in a comic is seen as a matter of course, just utilitarian. The colors are just there as a study of values, to show which character is where on the page - right? Wrong. With Ei8ht, Albuquerque not only conjures up a sense of mood, but he's able to establish actual settings and times thanks to his color schemes. The barren landscape of the Meld, for example, is portrayed in an arid yellow. Meanwhile, the flashbacks - set in the future, just like our protagonist - are cast in a haunted blue. Like everything else in Ei8ht, the colors here seem to evoke a mystery. Where are we? Is there a meaning to every shadow, or a screen lit with an eerie green? With a palette this deliberate, Rafael Albuquerque's colors may be the most interesting thing about this book.

That's not to snub his pencils, either. This is definitely Albuquerque's best showing in quite awhile, with his expressive characters meshing well with his wonderful use of shadows and shading. The result are characters that feel in even greater danger, because we can see them react to every cut and bruise with wide-eyed emotion. The way that Albuquerque paces his pages is also superb, with a great sense of visual continuity that makes the action flow and the flashbacks weave seamlessly into the narrative. One sequence in particular, featuring Joshua's launch into the unknown, is marvelous in both what it shows and what it doesn't. There's a lot going on that we don't know the full context of, but the brief flashes of emotion and energy make you determined to keep on the trail.

One of the biggest compliments I can give this book is that with Image and BOOM! Studios cornering the market on flashy, creator-owned books, Ei8ht is the kind of masterful debut that looks to be able to stand right alongside them. There's a clear deliberateness to every choice made in this comic, and every page seems to hold the potential of a new mystery, one that you can't wait to crack. That kind of a hook is rare in this day and age, particularly in a serialized medium that often feels like a numbers game.

But who knew that the magic number was apparently Ei8ht?

Credit: Image Comics

Secret Identities #1
Written by Jay Faerber and Brian Joines
Art by Ilias Kyriazis and Charlie Kirchoff
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by Image Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

At least since the 1980s, self-reflective comics creators have been reaching back into the recesses to see if there is anything that can still be found within the superhero genre that’s fresh and original. It’s hard to even begin this conversation without evoking Watchmen, the seedy underbelly of the secret lives of costumed heroes now forever exposed to the world, and just like Dr. Manhattan’s swinging blue nudity, it’s impossible to look away. In Secret Identities, Jay Faerber and Brian Joines bring us their take on the superhero team, and how the dynamics shift when a new member is introduced into their ranks.

Faerber (who is doing wonderful things with Graveyard Shift) and Joines (of the entertaining Krampus fame) introduce us to the Canadian-based team Front Line. An eclectic group of individuals, their powers are a mishmash of various superheroes that readers might recognize from all the major publishers, but what is really intriguing are their private lives. When not fighting bad guys, one member is the U.S. President’s daughter, another a hulking volcanic monster with a past to keep hidden, and the resident speedster uses his power to maintain two separate families in different countries. It’s the tip of the iceberg, and one gets the feeling that its about to start melting with the arrival of new member Crosswind.

As Joines rightly points out in the back matter to this first issue, the notion of a mole inside a group of superheroes is nothing new, citing the classic New Teen Titans story “The Judas Contract.” However, the refreshing twist on the genre is not only having the mole as the central figure in the story, but in making the focal point of the series about all of those things the heroes do when they aren’t wearing their capes. Some of them are morally ambiguous (the aforementioned polygamist), while the tale of a failed stand-up comedian is filled to the brim with pathos. Others leave more questions that answers, like what exactly is happening with all those lowlife types confined in the basement of the Kendrick Estate?

Artistically, Ilias Kyriazis and Charlie Kirchoff keep things bright and enthusiastic, a chaotic opening splash page of the Front Line team in action belying the more intimate nature of the rest of the book. Character designs are simple and recognizable archetypes, which is important when dealing with an ensemble cast this large. Of course, this also gives even more weight to the wonderful imagery of the decaying and hollowed out giant that Front Line uses as a base of operations. Color artist Kirchoff has given each of the vignettes that make up the larger story their own hues and temperature, further distinguishing each of the parts while maintaining a sense of cohesion with the book as a whole.

Secret Identities #1 does what all good debut issues should do, and gives us just enough set-up for each of the main characters to warrant a further bit of ferreting down the rabbit hole. The final twist revelation indicates where the series might go from here, but even this feels like a tease for something larger over the horizon. Regardless, Faerber and Joines have used a clearly extensive love of the genre, and just as Joines did with the culturally rich Krampus, begun to play on our assumptions and familiarity with the conventions.

Credit: Archaia / BOOM! Studios

Plunder #1
Written by Swifty Lang
Art by Skuds McKinley
Lettering by Deron Bennett
Published by Archaia
Review by Oscar Maltby
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

From Archaia comes Plunder, a tale of terror on the high seas. And while it isn't quite the swashbuckling historical yarn you might have come to expect, it is an uncompromising and visceral story set on the tumultuous waters of the Somalian Coast.

Told from the perspective of Translator, a 14-year old with a knack for language, Plunder #1 chronicles the story of a gang of Somali pirates. The issue opens with a firefight, as the pirates try and escape a battle with a Chinese vessel. As they flee, they come across what they assume to be a fishing ship, or maybe a research vessel. They clamber aboard, expecting civilians they can take as hostages. As they explore the ship, they find that the unlucky crew of the mystery ship have been ritualistically butchered. But who, or what, is responsible?

Writer Swifty Lang tackles the troubled world of modern piracy with all the panache regularly afforded to Blackbeard and gang. In a few short pages, he quickly develops an evocative crew of motley characters. Somalian patter is sprinkled through the book, with little accompanied explanation other than context, which adds flavor and a sense of otherworldliness to the book. The script is thick with narration, which has a tendency to unintentionally slow a book's flow and intrude upon the artwork, but here it provides a necessary window into this hostile world. After all, a new and disgusting face is introduced almost every panel, and their grisly visages demand explanation. Such source material could seem a little crass in the wrong hands, but Lang's lurid style and larger-than-life cast hits a comfortable medium between exploitation and sobering reality.

Artist Skuds McKinley's scratchy penciling style is often ugly, which comes in handy when drafting Plunder's disfigured crew. The well-worn cast are covered in crags, frown lines and scars; less suggesting of a hard life than an outright statement. Whilst the cast is convincing, McKinley's scenery is less so. He struggles with multiple-point perspective (such as with corners or multi-tiered staircases), which often leaves the panel looking flat and unconvincing. More convincing are his intense and disturbing depictions of gore, with each page offering a new and revolting centrepiece to send a shudder down your spine.

This is not a book for the faint-hearted, filled with grotesque depictions of ultra-violence that wouldn't look out of place in an Avatar Press book. It is truly gross stuff that, while effective at causing revulsion, can seem a little repetitive. There's legless corpses, disemboweled corpses, severed heads... By the end of the issue, it feels like you've seen more inside than out. Perhaps disappointingly for some, the tentacle-laden cover is somewhat unindicative of the story within. There is only the tiniest hint of Lovecraftian monsters here, with the bulk of the issue's action consisting of atavistic, zombie-style violence. Still, the hint of something a little more otherworldly promises a unique threat for future issues.

Plunder #1 is a refreshing acquisition for the more literary-focused Archaia Entertainment; a visceral, well-written book set in a dark corner of the world full of narrative opportunity. Swifty Lang attacks the questionable subject matter of modern day Somali Pirates with style and excess, whilst Skuds McKinley uses his knack for an ugly face to great effect. If you can stomach the violence, Plunder #1 is a quality comic book.

Credit: Action Lab Entertainment

Stray #1
Written by Vito Delsante
Art by Sean Izaakse, Ross Campbell and Simon Gough
Lettering by Vito Delsante
Published by Action Lab Entertainment
Reviewed by Brian Bannen
‘Rama Rating 7 out of 10

Stray #1 is nothing we haven’t seen before. The story doesn’t tread into any new waters, and a lot of its plot is like an homage to comics that have come before it. There’s a mysterious death, the unmasking of a superhero squad, and some drug abuse thrown in for good measure. It has echoes of Watchmen, Supurbia, and even a tame sprinkle of The Boys. So whlile Stray isn’t completely “original,” it still manages to carve out an intriguing individuality, despite its many inspirations.

Granted, one could pass off Stray as a Nightwing story. The parallels are extremely evident: the master hero introduces and trains the young sidekick to take his place, wear his mantle, follow his code of justice. Despite this, Stray moves beyond a simple homage once it gets into its real purpose -- a murdered hero, a drug pushing club owner who clearly fell from grace, and a grizzled detective who ties the two together with the secretive knowledge he has.

With just four pages of backstory, Vito Delsante is able to solidify the world he creates in Stray. A hero known as the Doberman indoctrinates his son into the superhero world in a series of flashbacks that give a concrete grounding for the Doberman’s history. One can easily see parallels between Batman and Robin as the hero and sidekick motif is strongly present in the opening of the comic, but Delsante uses this familiarity to push his own agenda.

In the transition beyond this, Delsante’s story gets much darker. The comic mostly follows Rodney Weller, son of the Doberman, and while he provides levity to the story, the events occurring around him are anything but light. While the major plot point revolves around a murder, Delsante has a few different threads at play, and each has its own merits. It’s clear on a first reading of Stray that Delsante has a lot planned for his characters, and he writes the comic like a thriller, peppering the story with secrets.

The comic is not without its faults, though. It gets a bit bumpy once Rodney is introduced, even though the action sequence that follows is pretty cool, and the comic races to make a connection between the main characters so much so that other parts of the story are quickly diminished. Delsante is unapologetic in how he drops the reader into the deep end of the story, and this makes for a bit of a surface level read at times. I’m sure the mystery will come together in later issues, but the comic has so much at play that it bobbles the juggling at certain parts. We can forgive this, though, because what it does show us is intriguing, and I’m definitely on board to see how events coalesce.

While parts of the comic are opaque, artist Sean Izaakse has an appealing style that is both clean and energetic. It’s reminiscent of Mark Bagley at times, and in one action sequence where Rodney dodges a volley of bullets, we can see parallels to Spider-Man. There’s a great fluidity to the images, though. Izaakse is especially adept at character’s emotions. His facial constructions are particularly impressive for how they translate fear, shock, contempt or arrogance. The hero designs are also fun to look at, so I’m looking forward to seeing certain characters returning in later issues. Ross Campbell and Simon Gough provide smooth and glossy finishes so that the imagery of the comic is crystal clear so even when the story is a bit uneven, the visuals are coherent.

Regardless of the stories it emulates, Stray #1 is a fun first issue. Vito Delsante has a lot of irons in the fire, and he clearly wants these evident to his readers maybe to show the depth of his story. Because while Stray not be a completely original comic, it has enough of its own voice to set itself apart from its influences.

The true test of any first issue is if you’d be willing to come back for more. I would, and I think you will to. Stray #1 has a ton of intriguing elements, a slick and likeable main character, and a mystery that I’m sure will be revealed slowly and painfully. So while Stray unashamedly reads like Nightwing at times, it uses an amalgam of the character to develop its own mystery, and one that is, if not original, at least intriguing.

Credit: Valiant Comics

Ivar, Timewalker #2
Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by Clayton Henry, Robert Gill and Brian Reber
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Published by Valiant Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Valiant’s Ivar, Timewalker presents a deceptively simple premise; what if everyone’s favorite Time Lord, the Doctor, was even more of an outright jerk than he already is? The debut issue from Fred Van Lente, Clayton Henry and Brian Reber presented the titular character as an irascible and reactive roustabout that finds himself playing tour guide to one of the present’s great minds. In this second issue, Van Lente takes it a step further, exploring the odd Doctor/Companion dynamic that has started to blossom between Ivar and Neela as well as delving a bit more into the lore surrounding Ivar. Ivar might not be as altruistic as our favorite time traveler, but Ivar, Timewalker #2 makes a pretty great case for him being the most fun.

The major theme of this month’s issue of Ivar, Timewalker is choice. Fred Van Lente doesn’t really concern himself with the real logistics of time travel, but instead is more concerned with the moral implications that it could possibly present. “Have you ever been tempted,” Neela asks, as they await another time slip on the super-continent Pangaea, “to try and change history?” This, of course, is one of the great pre-set plots when it comes to time travel, but Ivar and Neela aren’t run-of-the-mill time travelers and Van Lente isn’t a writer content to re-tread a familiar path. Van Lente simply uses this theme to inform this month’s adventure, which pays ever increasing dividends right up until the very end. After saving Neela from a dragonfly of unusual size, the first example of Van Lente’s trademark wit this month, Ivar transports them all along the timeline of Adolf Hitler with the express goal of not killing him.

It is here that Van Lente delves a bit further into Ivar and Neela’s relationship, as well as showing the audience exactly how Ivar functions as a time traveler. Their first stop is Austria in 1909, where a destitute Hitler begs on the street for money after he was refused entry into the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. Here Van Lente drops more than a few tantalizing hints about Ivar’s time travel-centered culture as he explains that most travelers from his time head here first in order to prove themselves true temporal big shots by killing Hitler. While the background is all well and good, it is the relationship between Ivar and Neela that take center stage here.

As the debut issue detailed, Ivar isn’t just palling around with Neela on some random happenstance, but in this second issue, Neela is a more fully formed character with her own agency and informed opinions about her adventures. This time around Neela channels the spirit of Donna Noble as she refuses to wear one of Ivar’s Zeligs; a device that serves as a universal translator and allows time travelers to blend into their surroundings. She only relents after Ivar insists that she either wear it or spend the majority of their time together being pawed at by lunkheaded Caucasians who are attempting to clean her face. “Humanity. You make me sad,” she sighs, as she attaches the Zelig to her forehead and moves on. Ivar may be the name on the front cover, but the Doctor is only as good as his companion and Neela makes for one hell of a companion. She is funny, intelligent, and more than a little mundane as she faces the overwhelming weirdness that is her life right now, but she never backs down or allows herself to be compromised by the moral ambiguity of her situation. Ivar, Timewalker #2 is big and crazy and hilarious in parts, but above it all, it nails its characters and presents their personalities effortlessly and that is half the battle won.

The other half is some slick visuals, and thankfully Ivar, Timewalker #2 has that in spades thanks to artists Clayton Henry and Robert Gill, backed by colorist Brian Reber. Clayton Henry, the series’ regular artist, handles the majority of the issue rendering Ivar, Neela, and their surroundings in smooth, unblemished panels that add a bit of stability to their chaotic adventures. Henry takes a naturalist approach to Ivar, Timewalker #2, grounding himself even as the issue gets weirder and weirder. In a market saturated with over-the-top visuals, it is nice to see an artist present a more reserved look at the genre. Guest artist Robert Gill also fits into the issue very well as he handles Ivar and Neela’s quick jaunt into World War I. Gill’s style, at first glance, stands next to Henry’s with relative ease, but upon closer look, one can see that Gill’s pages are bit more rough-hewn and sketchy than Henry’s, which works perfectly for the war torn setting. Both artists, elevated by the simplistic color choices of Brian Reber, mesh together well delivering a slick looking, but never overwhelming batch of pages. Ivar, Timewalker #2 won’t win any style awards, but sometimes a measured approach is the only way to go.

Ivar, Timewalker #2 has a lot going for it to only be two issues into its run. It is already juggling several heady science fiction ideas while presenting two compelling leads as well as being more than a bit cheeky. Beyond the amazing elevator pitch that is this book, I see Ivar, Timewalker becoming a major feather in Valiant Comics’ cap, standing tall aside titles like Archer and Armstrong and The Valiant. It isn’t very often that we get science fiction in comics that isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself and present its leads as fleshed out human beings instead of exposition machines. Ivar, Timewalker #2 does all of these things while never losing the momentum that it gained with its debut issue, choosing instead to build on it while still developing its own unique voice. Time travelers and their tales are a dime a dozen, but Ivar, Timewalker is one of a kind.

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