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Ministry of Space
Written by Warren Ellis
Drawn by Chris Weston
Coloured by Laura Martin
Published by Image Comics; $12.95 USD

This is the long-awaited collection of the sporadically-released three-issue science-fiction mini-series chronicling Warren Ellis’s imaginings of a world in which Britain had won the space race in the 1950s. It is an intriguing high-concept, brilliantly realized here by Ellis and artist Chris Weston.

In Ellis’s alternate history, Air Commodore John Dashwood arranges for the assassination of American soldiers at Peenemunde, Germany in 1945, as well as the destruction of the plans that would have started the Russians on the path to outer space. Dashwood utilizes a German scientist and a mysterious “black budget” to convince the British government to help make his dreams of space exploration a reality. Dashwood is a fascinating character, completely obsessed with his vision, a vision born during an almost religious experience he had while flying his plane during the Battle of Britain. After flying “high enough to see the curve of the world,” Dashwood finds his purpose in life, and will sacrifice many lives to build the world he has envisioned.

As Ellis and Weston’s alternate history unfolds, each triumph and defeat experienced by the Ministry of Space is depicted with a kind of grandeur made possible by Ellis’s sparse dialogue and deliberately nuanced pacing, and especially by Weston’s mind-boggling visuals. I would be cheating Comic Book Galaxy readers of the thrill of discovery by giving out too many particulars of the plot, suffice it to say that, by 1960, Ellis’s Britain has already been radically transformed by the advances in technology made by the Ministry, and by the “present,” we are presented with an altogether different world than the one we know. The central mystery is the source of Dashwood’s “black budget,” the money he mysteriously procured after the war to fund his ambitions, and the source of which he has never revealed, even to the British government. By the story’s conclusion, the source of the funding is revealed, and it casts everything we have seen before in a new light. Ellis effectively builds tension throughout this short graphic novel until this final reveal, and the book ends with one of the best final panels I’ve ever experienced. This is not just a love letter to space exploration, but a commentary on the horrible sacrifices that are often made when one adheres so rigidly to any particular ideology.

This is a powerful graphic novel, probably one of Ellis’s best, and I can’t imagine it having been realized by any artist other than Chris Weston. His detailed linework and imaginative designs are simply breathtaking, and Ellis wisely gives the drawings a lot of room to breathe, with sparse dialogue and many silent splash pages, including one of a horrifyingly beautiful nuclear explosion.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and I think fans of comic books and non-comics reading fans of science fiction in general would enjoy it as well. Ministry of Space is one of the best-written and most beautifully drawn science fiction comic books I have ever read, and I recommend it unreservedly. Grade: 4.5/5

-- Pat Markfort



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