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Ministry of Space
Words by Warren Ellis - Art by Chris Weston, Laura Martin - Published by Image Comics (US), Titan Books (UK) - First published 2005 - Originally published as Ministry of Space 1-3
Ministry of Space sees Warren Ellis doing what he seems to like doing best - extrapolating about space travel. Where Orbiter was set in the future, however, Ministry of Space is more of a 'what if' alternate universe, where Ellis examines what might have happened had Britain won the space race. Our history tells us that after the Second World War, the Americans extracted a number of top Nazi rocket scientists from Germany and took them to the US. This book examines what might have happened had the British got there first.
The basis of historical fact that Ellis works from is solid and well documented, making this a believable scenario from the start. It seems a simple leap to presume that the Brits might have snatched scientists before the Americans, and that such a simple alteration could easily have lead to the situation Ellis creates.
The potential for Brits to display a stiff upper lipped egomanical eccentricity is brought to the fore through the main character, John Dashwood. He forms the Ministry of Space early on in the book, becomes the first man to leave the Earth's atmosphere, and is followed throughout his career. Ellis's story is expertly woven, jumping from past to present and back again without tying itself in knots, revealing more of the story of Dashwood and his Ministry as the book progresses towards its satisfying climax.
Perhaps his greatest story-telling skill, however, is the space he leaves for his artists. Weston's detailed space-craft are nothing short of phenomenal, creating a coherent evolution of British craft from 1946 to the present, almost as if he were drawing something that already existed. Seeing Ministry space rockets lined up next to Air Force Spitfires is something to behold, as are his future-modern vistas of monorails at Westminster and Union Jacks on the Moon. Martin's colours add a level of depth and vibrancy that help bring Weston's work to life.
If anything, the book feels too short, covering 56 years in 96 pages that could easily have had more room to breathe. But if Ellis's reasoning was that this might leave us wanting more of his imaginative futurism, he couldn't have been closer to the mark.
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