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Divinity III: Stalinverse #1

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By Matt Kindt, Trevor Hairsine, Ryan Winn, David Baron

Da! Divinity III: Stalinverse #1 is the latest event in the miniseries-based saga that is changing everything you know about the Valiant universe. It’s also the best book of the three miniseries thus far.

Divinity and Divinity II told the stories of Russian cosmonauts who headed off to the farthest regions of space during the 1960’s Space Race. They encounter an unknown entity that empowers them with the ability to change the fabric of being. Divinity I and II each focused on a different cosmonaut and the effect on their return to earth fifty years after their original mission. One cosmonaut was genuinely peaceful and wished to live unharassed, moving through time to visit memories from his past. The other was a staunch supporter of the state and, appalled at what had befallen the Soviet Union, chose to alter the history of the world. This led to a head-on battle between the cosmonauts. Divinity III picks up the story, and almost everything we know about the world has changed.

Valiant Entertainment has made it clear that this is not an alternate reality or different version of earth. Thanks to the powers of the Divinity II cosmonaut, Myshka, the Stalinverse is the Valiant universe. But where do we go from here?

Writer Matt Kindt has crafted a tale that gets better each time out. Kindt sets the stage with a timeline of major events in world politics. You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate the jaw-dropping shock of the Stalinverse timeline. Unlike some revisionist histories, Stalinverse doesn’t come into being by changing the outcome of a world war – a common trope. Kindt breaks new ground, presenting a chilling march across the globe from the 1920’s onward. He laces his science-fiction history with familiar names, making the history relatable yet far different from what we know.  The timeline is an effective setup for the story start.

And what a start it is. It’s a heady thought – what becomes of the heroes and villains of the Valiant universe if history and allegiances are changed? The enthralling narrative explores the state of affairs throughout the world but shown through the experiences of key players in the Valiant universe. Some of the content is disturbing yet still in line with what one would expect in a world such as this. Fans should be thrilled with the appearances, but keep in mind, the entire history of the 20th Century is changed. Not all of Valiant’s preeminent personalities may exist under these circumstances.

Book one of Stalinverse is largely setup for the rest of the saga, focusing less on the Divinity cosmonauts than one might expect. However, the story is compelling and paves the way for the character one-shot tie-ins. With the possibility of such great material, these one-shots are almost necessary and should be welcomed by fans. Several new characters are established, such as the Red Brigade, but beyond Divinity II’s Myshka, little of them is known yet. Kindt closes this chapter by leaving the story wide open – to possibilities and interpretation.

The art of the book is stunning. From the opening panels with its glorious colors by David Baron, who effectively adds to the drama throughout the book with his color technique, to the kinetic lines of artist Trevor Hairsine and inker Ryan Winn, this book vibrates with energy.

Hairsine’s character lines evoke movement especially compared against the backdrop of solid lined backgrounds. The effect is organic, giving the characters life, making them more than mannequins or snapshots. Inker Winn showcases his talent to enhance line work without obscuring the artist’s style. Pencils as kinetic as Hairsine’s might be a challenge to ink faithfully, but Winn does a superb job.

Baron’s colors are glorious, particularly in the opening salvo of the story. The palette reflects the story, with institutions feeling cold, home fronts plain, and power dynamic. There are themes of crimson and purple running throughout as well.

The devil is in the details, and the team doesn’t skimp on any. Take a look at a particular character’s (no spoilers!) sketchbook. While not the focus of the scene, it adds to both the character and the story’s history. It’s evident that much thought has been put into the presentation of the story.

Divinity III: Stalinverse #1 is an outstanding story and an absolute must-read. Imaginative, thrilling, and good-looking, the only downside to this book is having to wait for the next installment.

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