10 June 2012

Ministry of Space by Warren Ellis and Chris Weston

I'll come to the comic in a moment but I want to start with the technology that made it all happen.

I treated myself to an iPad a couple of months ago (it's the so-called new iPad that followed the iPad2) and one of the things that I wanted to use it for was reading comics. The main reason for this is that it is easy to carry one iPad around with me but rather hard to carry the few dozen comics that are in my read pile.

The secondary reason is that it is easy to get complete series and back issues so missing issues ceases to be a problem. Digital comics are also cheaper that paper ones but that is a lesser reason for buying them that way.

I've read a few Warren Ellis comics over the years and I like his style and the subjects that he writes about.

I follow him on Twitter and was catching up with things after a busy day touristing in Amsterdam when he tweeted that his Ministry of Space, previously unknown to me, was now available digitally, and for the ridiculous price of £3.99.

It took but a couple of minutes to find and download it. This is frictionless commerce at its best. Previously I would have had to email my comic shop and ask them to get a copy for me and then go to the shop to collect it. Easy enough but that would have taken weeks rather than days.

Warren's own afterword explains the story's relationship to Dan Dare, to which it clearly pays homage.

Essentially it is a prequel to the Dan Dare we all know and love and it explains how Great Britain came to be the dominant space power in the 1950s.

Of course this is Warren Ellis so the story does rather more than that and it ventures in to dark places where power and gold play their part.

As does some decidedly unfriendly fire.

Then the last panel knocks you sideways with an unexpected ending to a story that you did not know was there.

Warren is his economical safe and words and their attendant balloons are few and far between.

This leaves plenty of space for the art which is a good thing.

Chris Weston was a new name for me and that's my fault. The artwork is clean, very detailed and very evocative of the original Dan Dare without in anyway being a copy of it. Here the monorail has some Frank Hampson curves and colours and the flying boys are a direct lift.

Ministry of Space is a delightful little comic (it was originally issued in three chapters) that takes you back to a different future and shows you the good and the bad of what might have been.

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