Divinity II #1

The first "Divinity" miniseries followed Soviet cosmonaut Abram Adams as he ascended into a god-like being of nearly infinite power. Readers of that series will recall two additional members of that same mission, but their fates were never explained -- at least, until now. Creators Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine return in "Divinity II" #1 to explain what became of these other two space explorers, and the focus here is on the patriotic Valentina Volkov, whose devotion to the motherland puts a different spin on her own transformation into another being. The issue serves as a worthwhile introduction to a new series and works even better as a complement to the first one.

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Those looking for a continuation of Abram's story won't find it here, and -- in fact -- Abram doesn't appear in the introductory issue to Kindt's sequel, save for flashbacks during his and Valentina's training. This is Valentina's story, taking place roughly in parallel to Abram's. Kindt spends much of the issue studying not only the more obvious contrasts between the two cosmonauts, but also their similarities and how their personalities make their encounters with alien life play out differently. While Abram had been in a relationship, for instance, Valentina foregoes companionship at the state's behest and in support of her mission. Where Abram's mindset drove him to try and make the world better for all, Valentina's makes her want to make improvements solely for the benefit of the U.S.S.R.

Kindt's story works so well because his premise is essentially an alternate, what-if scenario from his original story, like an exploration of what would have happened if someone other than Spider-Man had been bitten by a radioactive spider. Just as he did in his first story, Kindt explores Valentina's history and origin through a series of out-of-sequence flashbacks, which nicely establish her devotion to her government and the resulting extreme actions she's willing to take on its behalf. At the same time, though, Kindt also sets up an inevitable encounter between these two divine beings, one that's divided along both moral and political lines. Though such a showdown is barely hinted at, the promise of it is palpable and seems a little more realistic come the final page of the issue.

Hairsine also delivers the same kind of touch he did last time around, with attractive, lush art that captures a beautifully terrifying alien world. Gorgeously enhanced by colorist David Baron, Hairsine's soft, sometimes obscuring lines add to the beauty of such a world as well as a touch of humanity to the story's characters. He leans towards more narrow, horizontal panels, which gives Kindt's story a cinematic, widescreen ambience, and the lack of black lines bordering these panels brings the story a more ethereal feel. Baron shies away from using primary colors -- a trick many colorists have used before, but one that works especially well here, both for conveying the alien nature of The Unknown as well as the harsh Russian winters Valentina endured as a child.

"Divinity II" #1 is a worthwhile continuation of Kindt and Hairsine's concept and a compelling expansion of what they established in the first series. The creators deftly dance around repetitiously retelling the same story with characterization that makes it fresh all over again.

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