What's your number one complaint about Warren Ellis? Mine is that he doesn't know how to pace his stories to adequately cover all the ideas be brings to the table. As a result, ripe plot points are glossed over, and the conclusion comes from nowhere, seemingly tacked on, and barely receiving enough space to explain it. MINISTRY OF SPACE is yet another victim of this approach, but unlike Orbiter or Ocean, it works a bit better. That's because this story is not a beat-the-clock adventure, but an alternate history overview, told in flashbacks that begin in World War II. So I guess as long as everything that Ellis writes from here on is in this genre, I have nothing to worry about.
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.