Saturday, March 27, 2010

Art Discussion Month 2010: Ministry of Space #1-3 by Chris Weston

[Continuing Art Discussion Month 2010. 31 days, 31 artists, a whole lot of discussion. The explanation behind my choice of comics and the archive can be found here.]

Ministry of Space #1-3. Written by Warren Ellis. Drawn by Chris Weston. Coloured by Laura Martin.

Not quite about the art team entirely, but I think it applies -- Warren Ellis on Chris Weston:

That's why Chris Weston, Gary Erskine and Matt Hollingsworth are the perfect artists for The Filth. They make a world you can pick up and turn in your hands. Super-real. Things are what they are. Nothing confusing about it at all.

While Erskine and Hollingsworth aren't involved with Ministry of Space, I think the comments by Ellis are true nonetheless. Chris Weston draws worlds that look real. And there's a need for reality in Ministry of Space where Ellis writes about a world where England got all of the Nazi rocket scientists first and had the space program that put a man in space first -- basically, it's about the British finding a way to extend the Empire, of remaining a superpower. It's about Sir John Dashwood's determination to make it happen and the various costs. I really like this series (and the trade is a lovely little package with fantastic paper and a great afterword by Ellis talking about his love of space and rockets and those sorts of stories).

So, this is an alternate world and Weston draws just that. Laura Martin on colours is exactly what he needs, because she can colour a page like no one else. Ever since the first Authority arc, she's been my favourite colourist -- she does reality well. There are computer graphics and the sort, but, for the most part, nothing stands out. It all blends with Weston's art for a cohesive presentation.

Weston has two main things to draw in this book: planes/rockets/space stations, and people. And he does both extremely well. Weston has a certain look to his people. A British look. I've described it in my head as a creepy look, but that's not right. Some of his people look creepy, but not all. I'm looking at three pages in the second issue. The story takes place in the two timelines: 2001 and the ongoing creation of the Ministry of Space. In 2001, Sir John is an old man and he's just been told that the Americans have discovered how he funded the Ministry of Space and his reaction is one of shock/terror. We're in on his face from the bottom of his nose to the top of his eyebrows, his glasses below his eyes, which are wide. On the next page, cut to him as a younger man after the first successful space flight. He has a similar look on his face, but there's more sadness in his eyes and his expression. Over the next two panels we pull away to see that he's lying in a bed -- and the further away we get, the less that sadness is there... you can only see it up close. By the splash on the next page, where we can see by the impressions in the sheets, he's lost his legs, he just looks like a man with a blank expression. Up close, emotion; far away, stiff upper lip. British through and through, all communicated in two pages of wonderful storytelling. Especially because his expression doesn't really change... it's just that, up close, you can see the details.

Weston's style is realistic, but not photorealistic (aside from the jets and rockets and so forth I imagine). He manages to convey a sense of reality in his people, but they all look like his people. Wonderful body language and facial expressions. His people can be a little stiff at times (though that works with elderly Sir John and his metal legs). The anger displayed at the end of the book is wonderful and leaps off of the page.

Sorry to cut it a little short, but I'm on my way out of town for the day. I'll return tomorrow with Phil Jimenez and the Authority/Planetary book.