Putin rides a horse topless
Vladimir Putin portrays a strong image in southern Siberia's Tuva region in August 2009. A new comic book depicts the Russian president as wanting to restore Russian gloryReuters/RIA Novosti/Pool/Alexei Druzhinin

Critics of Vladimir Putin might say that there is a cartoonish aspect to his being pictured playing ice hockey, working out in the gym and riding a horse bare-chested. Now the Russian president will be depicted as an actual comic-book character in a book released on Wednesday 20 April.

Putin plays a key role in the latest instalment of the Divinity series from Valiant Comics by the renowned writer and New York Times bestseller Matt Kindt. His story tells of how a cosmonaut, called Valentina, who left the Earth during the space race and returns with the power to bend and shape reality, is manipulated by Putin with the aim of building a new Soviet empire.

Kindt told IBTimes UK that growing up in the 1980s, he was steeped in the Cold War narrative of the spectre of conflict between the Soviet Union and the US.

"This story picks up with one of the cosmonauts coming back to modern-day Russia and she says: 'What happened to my country?' She feels kind of betrayed, the Cold War is over, the Berlin Wall is down and she feels her country has been weakened, so the first thing she does is ask Putin, let's make Russia great again, and he goes: 'Sure, let's do it.'

Vladimir Putin
Putin as he appears in the comic book Divinity Valiant Comics

"It is like the ultimate weapon has fallen into his lap and of course he is going to use it."

With a nod to the overtly political, including Russia's annexation of Crimea with the Ukrainian flag flying on tanks and a reference to how the cosmonaut returned to "separatists standing against a relaxed Russian authority", he wrote the story without thinking about whether it might cause controversy in Russia.

"I didn't give it a second thought until people started picking up on the story. Hopefully people will see it as a nuanced storyline. He is who he is, the story is just trying to provide an alternate reality of the world we live in."

The Divinity series from Valiant Comics certainly gives a more nuanced comic portrayal than the videos which went viral in February showing Putin dispatching a number of rivals. There has also been a comic book produced in Russia which depicts him as a superhero conquering the world.

However, Kindt said he was relatively neutral about Putin, pointing out that in his book: "He is not necessarily a supervillain, he is doing what anyone would do in this situation which is, if you are given all the power in the world, of course you are going to use it to further your cause."