Valiant's Stalinverse: Pulling Back the Iron Curtain with Matt Kindt

This December, the Valiant Universe receive a drastic, daunting overhaul courtesy of Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine. With the dawn of the creative team's third volume of "Divinity" comes a complete reworking of everything you thought you knew. In short, welcome to the Stalinverse.

With two volumes already published, Kindt and Hairsine have given readers the chance to experience the character's life from a number of different perspectives, but here things are set to change in a radical new way. With the entire Valiant Universe warped into a place where the Iron Curtain has risen and the Soviets are in charge, everyone and everything has been changed. Heroes and villains have switched sides and agendas, and only one man is aware that something strange is going on: Ninjak. With Abram Adams missing amongst the new world order that has suddenly, unexpectedly set itself up, Colin King must go on a mission to track him down - or lose the world he thought he knew.

EXCLUSIVE: Trevor Hairsine's art from "Divinity III: Stalinverse" #1

CBR News: "Stalinverse" sees Abram Adams missing; with the Valiant Universe immediately changed into this unexpected, vastly different place. What made you decide to take on this kind of reality-warping, alternate universe storyline for the third volume of "Divinity"?

Matt Kindt: Well, superficially, I really got a kick out of seeing Russian versions of the characters. I think those visuals are really powerful – the idea of taking familiar protagonists and making them sinister is just a great trope, you know? I’ve loved that since the original "Star Trek" when Spock wore a goatee. I’ve always been a fan of that, but, as a grown-up writer, it intrigued me for the challenge. How do you take a trope and make it about something? How do you put a twist on this to make it more than just a gimmick?

That’s the beauty of the Valiant Universe. It’s character drive, and this particular twist fit right into the themes we’ve been playing with already in "Divinity". It was a natural extension of the story – and was honestly in the first pitches for the series. None of us had any idea how receptive readers would be to this new character, but, from the beginning, I had a longer story for the character that I’d hope we’d be able to get to. AThis was the natural next stage.

I think by Russia-fying the universe it really gives us a good window into the character – to not only show the culture and mind-set that he lives in, but to also show his growth as a character. Divinity has grown a lot over the course of the series and gone through a lot – and he seems above it all. I equate it to a guy that was abused when he was younger, then as he matures and feels like he’s conquered his past and gotten past everything, it all comes back crashing into his life. All those seeds of problems are still in him – waiting to find some weakness – some crack in his psyche to take root again.

With Ninjak as the central character, at least as things begin, this seems like it’ll be leaning harder into being a mystery than the previous two volumes. What can readers expect from "Stalinverse"?

Kindt: It’s a real mind-bender. Ninjak will be the clear lens that we see this universe through. He’s the only one that has perspective when we start the series – the only one that realizes that something isn’t right. He’s got to try to reach Divinity and activate him. Ninjak has all the knowledge, but he doesn’t have the power to fix things.

EXCLUSIVE: Trevor Hairsine's art from "Divinity III: Stalinverse" #1

The hopelessness of the situation is what’s going to make the team that Ninjak puts together interesting. Like World War II – we’ll see some very unlikely team-ups. Characters from the Valiant Universe that you never thought you’d see working together... will be working together, a kind of modern-day Axis vs. Allies. I can’t spoil who’s who, but we will be seeing everyone in the Valiant U. playing a part – on one side or another.

What kind of threats will Ninjak meet?

Kindt: We’ll see a lot of familiar faces. X-O Manowar and Shadowman are working together in the Middle East to quell Deadside 'leaks' that are popping up like oil fires in the desert. So we’ll get some very strange and unlikely team-ups. Bloodshot is an utterly terrifying presence, charged with putting down student uprisings – and he does it with no mercy. He might be the scariest guy in this series.

But the biggest threat is going to be Myshka; she’s the ultimate 'hero' of the Stalinverse, and we tease it in the first issue. She is the leader of an all-new team of heroes that we’ve never seen before, Heroes of the State, who are basically a Russian super-powered death squad.

What does the story gain from having that outside perspective of events - focusing on Ninjak rather than Abram?

EXCLUSIVE: Trevor Hairsine's art from "Divinity III: Stalinverse" #1

Kindt: We’ve been inside Abram’s head already. With this series, we’ll get to triangulate what makes him tick by seeing him through other characters’ perspective. I think in a lot of ways Ninjak is the most rational character in the Valiant Universe. He’s pragmatic. So his take on Abram/Divinity is going to be very practical and very down-to-earth – more of an everyman kind of take on what it’s like to have to shake hands with a god.

That’s the scene I want to see as a fan – and the one I couldn’t wait to write.

We’ve seen that Divinity has this sort of power at his disposal, but this is the greatest feat we’ve seen from him. At this point, is it fair to say that his powers are endless? Is he really now reaching the power of a god?

Kindt: Yep. He’s always had the power of a god – but he’s a mortal. He’s just a man, at the end of the day, with god-like abilities. So his limits are limits he’s placed on himself – the limits of his own mind. Limits he may not even realize he’s placing on himself. When we first see him in issue #1, he’s completely hobbled. He has a conscience. He has guilt. He has a true sense of what it means to have responsibility. Ultimately, the Stalinverse is going to use that against him to cripple him.

How important has it been that you have a consistent artistic style on this series, with Trevor as the artist on every issue to date?

EXCLUSIVE: Trevor Hairsine's art from "Divinity III: Stalinverse" #1

Kindt: Trevor on art is essential. I couldn’t... I wouldn’t do it without him. But not just him – David Baron’s colors and Ryan Winn’s ink are all absolutely essential in giving Divinity the unique voice that the series has. Trevor and the guys have been absolute beasts – you can’t imagine how insane some of the scripts are that I’ve turned in for this series, and yet somehow they bend it into something that comes out being an entertaining read.

The scripts are complex. The ideas we’re playing around with are pretty big. And if the color and the lines and layouts aren’t absolutely clicking the entire thing would fall apart.

Divinity started as a concept for a villain who could face off against Unity. But over time, things have obviously shifted now. How do you view the character now, yourself? Has your thought process for Abram changed over time, and can you see the line between hero and threat anymore?

Kindt: Definitely. I think he could still be a villain just by the nature of his powers. His motivations are absolutely not villainous. But if a person existed in our world with the power that he has – it wouldn’t be a peaceful co-existence. I think humanity’s fear of what he could do even if he’d never do it would end up pushing events into conflict. He’s never going to be left alone. He’ll never know peace in his life. Not as long as he wields the power that he wields. That’s the beauty and curse of the characters. He’s absolutely human in his thoughts and desires. He’s absolutely benevolent. But just by simply existing, a large portion of society is going to always view him as a threat.

EXCLUSIVE: Jeffrey Veregge's variant for "Divinity III: Stalinverse" #1
EXCLUSIVE: Greg Smallwood's variant for "Divinity III: Stalinverse" #1
EXCLUSIVE: Adam Gorham's variant for "Divinity III: Stalinverse" #1
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