Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Ministry of Space

Warren Ellis's sci-fi comic Ministry of Space came out in trade paperback yesterday. I've never read it, but I will commonly buy any trade written by Ellis on general principle. I have never been dissapointed.

I'm still not. Ellis wrote something new, and interesting. He's been playing a lot over the past couple years with the idea of comics that aren't about superheroes, but still retain sci-fi elements. His Apparat books (Frank Ironwine, Angel Stomp Future, Quit City, Simon Specter) were single issue presentations that looked at comics as if they'd been created in a world where superhero comics had never gained prominence. A brilliant idea, and something I've stolen liberally for the Winthrop Academy setting, where there are compartivly few modern superhero books (most of them liscensed, fictional adventures of real superheroes), and signifigantly more horror, mystery, romance, drama, and crime comics.

Anyway, Ministry of Space. It's basically a time line book. It looks from the beginnings of a British space program in the 1940s (an alternate world where the British managed to capture the German V2 rocket scientists before the Americans), and up to the the future. The book bounces evenly between a continuous scene set in 2001, and various vignettes of important events in the history of the Ministry. Some of the scenes (especially Elizabeth II's coronation, and the kids with heli-packs) are very reminiscent of scenes from his work on The Authority in the "Shift Ships" storyarc, most specifically stuff taking place in Sliding Albion.

It rocks. Ellis has a real grasp of how to develop a setting, temporally speaking. Events build on events, and he infuses them with a real emotion and energy. You get to know the characters. And the penultimate page in the last issue...jesus. It completly changes your perception of the book. Or at least it did mine. The secret of the Ministry's funding was one thing...but that page was a doozy for me.

The book is a touch pricy for its size, but the art is quite nice and the story is great. While its definitly not Orbiter, it's definitly top notch. It's not Orbiter mainly becuase the comic isn't about deeply understanding why all the characters WANT to go to space. Rather Ministry of Space is about actually going TO space.


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