Ministry Of Space Paperback – Jul 20 2006
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Comics International Issue 173: " The art's lovely and the script's gripping until the end...Ellis' conclusions may leave a bitter taste in your mouth, but Weston's lovingly crafted conclusions make you realise this was worth the wait." www thefourthrail.com February 2005: "...a series that has finally lived up to its potential 8/10." --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Warren Ellis's prolific writing can be seen on such varied and acclaimed titles as X-Men, The Authority, Transmetropolitan, Lazarus Churchyard and the award-winning Planetary. Chris Weston has worked regularly for 2000 AD on such stories as Judge Dredd and Indigo Prime. His other work includes The Invisibles, The Authority, The Filth, Transmetropolitan and an acclaimed run on Swamp Thing. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In MINISTRY OF SPACE, the British reached Peenemunde ahead of the US Army and smuggled the German rocket scientists and technology to England, thereby expanding the British Empire into space. Now you may be asking: how could a Britain nearly bankrupted by WWII have funded this massive project? That's exactly what the British government is asking itself 60 years later, and the answer is just one of several historical twists that put a shadow on the glorious empire. The framing sequence of Ellis' story is set in 2001, focusing on Sir John Dashwood, one of the ministry's architects. Flashbacks highlight everything from putting the first man into Earth orbit to landing on Mars, with a few disasters thrown in for good measure. These are well-written segments, in the quick, high-adventure style of The Right Stuff. The final revelation and accompanying twists show that while this Britain certainly is a more industrious and effective explorer of space, there are downsides. Many other historical issues are briefly touched upon, especially in the final chapter, and I would have preferred some expansion here. It would have served the story well. And let's not forget artist Chris Weston, who ably brings the "Dan Dare" style mentioned in Ellis' afterword to the page. His blending of fighter plane design with rocket science leads to the production of some original and beautiful spacecraft. Weston is the perfect artist for this story... I just wish we could have seen more of it!
So buy this book, enjoy its three issues worth of material, and try not to mope too much when you finish it in an hour or so.
He did the same thing with Reload and with Red. Decent books that could have been monthlies or at least a few issues longer. But maybe that was his point in writing all of these over the past couple of years - a conscious rebelling against the drawn out minimum 6 part stories DC and Marvel seem to like for almost every current title they publish.
Regardless of the motivation or the execution, it is still an interesting story of one man involved in it all from the beginning. If you like other mainstream publisher things Ellis has done (for example, his run on Authority and/or Global Frequency) then you will like this. It's got all the trademark Ellis elements: hidden agendas, deep dark secrets, way cooler than you characters, and a bunch of snappy dialogue.
I read comics primarily for the writing, but this series deserves mention for the art as well. It is absolutely fantastic. I've loved everything Chris Weston has ever done (for example, The Invisibles or Filth) and this is simply wonderful to look at.
Ellis shifts the story's timeline effectively throughout the script. The reader is given the backdrop in doses instead of the usual diarrhoea method that most writers employ when relating past events that led to the current outcome of the story. The flashback sequences does not affect the pacing whatsoever but rather enhances its drama. While the science-fiction aspect reminds me of what can be found in a Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon comic strip, I appreciate that Ellis bothered to make (fictional) reference to the men and their science behind the technology to make the fantastic plausible in our eyes. I also admire at how he manages to lend a sense of authenticity and regard to what presently appears to be out of man's grasp; Colonising other planets in our solar system.
The story may appear to be a wish fulfilment about Britain retaining its past glory but Ellis hammers the point that while England is enjoying the fruits of space travel and the establishment of off-world colonies, a segment of its empire will always be categorised as second class citizens. You may be the daughter of one of the first men to land on Mars as well as a qualified space pilot but if you are not male and (especially) Caucasian, rest assured that you will be segregated. The ethical ambiguity that is at the foundation of Dashwood's vision is really what makes Ellis' story a compelling one since it really emphasises the following question; Does the end justify the means?
The art work and overall production is the literal definition of drop dead gorgeous. Chris Weston's retro-futuristic designs of the uniforms, travelling devices and rocket ships is so highly intricate that one cannot help but think that the technology may be accurate (!).
Weston's realistic style is definitely on par with that of Brian Bolland. The background work is beautifully detailed but it is the sense of perception and depth with the forefront that makes this series a true artistic vision. The Mars landing scenario is totally breathtaking with its cinematic vision that I would dare to compare to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Weston's work on Enemy Ace: War In Heaven and The Invisibles is quite impressive but he has truly outdone himself on Ministry Of Space. Weston has now made my favourite Top 10 artist list!
Ministry Of Space is the graphic novel equivalent of Robert Harris' Fatherland with its original premise and grandiose theme. It will not revolutionise the North American market a la Dark Knight Returns or Watchmen because there are no costumes or powers but it proves that a writer can intelligently use the element of the fantastic to provoke not just a sense of wonder but that of thought.
But comes the last panel of the book, and I don't know why it is there. The revelation of where the money for the Ministry came from in the first place was all the drama needed. The last panel shows the "coloured female quarters" of Space Station Churchill. Wait, racial segregation in space? Why is it there? To show that not all is perfect within this alternate England? Sorry, not believable. The first man on the Moon in this alternate history was black, the man who created the Ministry of Space was by his own description a monster, but a racist monster? "Balls to that" as he would say. Buy the book, read it, and figure the last panel as a last-second addition done early one morning after a marathon night of drafts, revisions, rewritings, re-drawings, all done with the swigging of gallons of coffee and caffeine tablets. That's the one way in which the last panel makes sense.
Ministry of Space is a good example of Ellis's strengths and weaknesses. The concept, a sort of post-modern adaptation of the classic British comic "Dan Dare", is certainly engaging and will evoke nostalgia in anyone who, as a child or teenager, admired the graceful swept-wing rocket ships that filled the pages of Atomic Age storybooks.
Unfortunately, the `shock' revelations that occupy the last few pages of MoS will fail to surprise most readers, whom I suspect will recognize where things are ultimately heading well in advance. Indeed, these final disclosures come across as so clumsy and ham-handed that they signal to me that Ellis opted for as facile a conclusion as he could conjure with a minimum of effort. Their net effect is to undermine what had, up till that moment, been an engrossing and well-realized tale of the near future.
The real pleasure in MoS comes from artist Chris Weston, an outstanding draftsman whose artwork supplies the high degree of realism the storyline mandates. He is the rare artist who is as adept at rendering human figures and facial features, as he is at rendering large metal spaceships and the bucolic British countryside. Weston's art is the reason that fans of space adventure and comic art should pick up MoS.
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