Ministry of Space #3
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Chris Weston
is a magician. I don’t think there’s any other
way to put it.
of Space #3 was delayed for so long, many doubted it
would ever come out. The story so far was relatively simple
(though it played with chronology), and the mystery being
built up was so easy to guess it didn’t make for much
of a hook at all. Add to that some basic logic problems
with the plot and you’ve got a formula for disaster.
Who would have
guessed it might end up Ellis’ best mini-series to
The story picks
up with Sir John Dashwood meeting the heads of the Ministry
of Space aboard Churchill Space Station. They confirm that
the Americans are indeed launching their own space program
with a jaunt around the moon. Sir John can’t help
but remark that the moon is British territory, to which
they reply that the Americans will release information if
they aren’t allowed safe passage: proof that the Ministry
was founded using the most atrocious source of funding imaginable.
But can it be true?
Sir John then
flashes back to the days after the Doctor’s death
in 1960, when he and Bridge were still bemoaning the German
rocket scientist’s final work to put them on a nuclear
engine program. Not much later, we’re outside the
Victoria moon base where another leap is made: they’ve
discovered water on the moon, making it feasible to begin
colonization. Another flashforward brings us to Mr. Bridge’s
launch to the moon… and the tragedy that followed.
Okay, let me
get some quibbles out of the way: this series has nearly
as much fantasy going on as it does science, history, and
fiction. The idea that the British could launch a space
program immediately after World War Two is preposterous.
Even with all the minds behind Nazi rocketry at their fingertips
and two billion pounds capitol to start with, they simply
didn’t have the resources to reach the level of space
travel Ellis depicts.
supposing they did, there’s no way the Americans and
Soviets would have allowed them to dominate the skies. Why,
the threat of Sputnik alone was enough to scare America
into a space race. Think about that: we got off our asses
for SPUTNIK. That’s like declaring war on someone
‘cause they threw a wiffle ball at you. Yet we would
twiddle our thumbs while the Brits launched a fleet into
The British Empire
was in decline following World War Two for numerous reasons.
The loss of all their colonies meant a loss of raw materials
and income. Since they didn’t need to protect shipping,
they didn’t need to maintain a large navy, and without
these elements, the country moved down the totem pole while
the two superpowers grew.
Did the Americans
and Soviets need rocketry to do so? Doubtful. Common sense
has shown that just about anyone could have done a better
job of things than NASA, but what are you supposed to do
once you reach space? Unless you get raw materials or income
while you’re up there, the whole thing is a loss,
so you need funds from back home… and we’re
back to square one.
That said, Ellis
drops subtle hints along the way to show he’s not
entirely serious or even particularly concerned with reality.
This isn’t a book about national pride or sabre-rattling
but the exploration of a dream. My first reading of the
previous issues led me to believe it was Ellis’ dream
(You can’t exactly blame me; he’s a rather vocal
Brit who seems to have made a hobby of mocking Americans
and their common foibles). But Ellis understands the consequences
of such a dream too well to tell a blind tale of British
The art, on the
other hand, is probably the most glorious work you’ll
see this year. Every page looks gorgeous and at least half
a dozen will resonate long after you’ve finished reading.
The amount of detail Chris Weston puts into his larger panels
of the moon base are jaw-dropping. Some pages were so gorgeous
I had to show them around to people I know, almost like
I needed another set of eyes to be sure they were real.
And if ever I
doubted that Laura (DePuy) Martin is the greatest colorist
around— my eyes have been opened! I don’t know
what she must do to get such results out of her team, but
their work here is a new high for the medium. The page following
Bridge’s moon mission launch is nearly photographic
in quality, dramatic and powerful. But then the tones of
the lunar surface are so light and subtle you just want
to drink them in all day.
Oh, and did I
mention there are no lens flares. Not one! I challenge you
to find a greater sign of master coloring.
to Ministry of Space has been a long time coming, but the
team has delivered. Ellis especially. This story isn’t
just a “What if…?” on space travel, but
a lesson on power, obsession, and the way our ever-increasing
ambitions can lure us further and further away from our
finale is the capstone on his lesson, and, quite frankly,
it took my breath away. Ellis truly pulled a magic trick,
keeping our eyes on one hand while the other was hard at
work. Sure, the hand may have been fumbling around for three
years, but, man, did he pull a giant rabbit out in the end.