New to the World Cup of Asterix? Read this introduction to find out what it's all about.
No! Don't make me read Asterix and the Secret Weapon again! Please, mommy, no! There's a law against cruel and unusual punishment!
I wake from my night terrors, dripping in sweat, relieved that I'm an adult and can do what I want. A voice in my head - high-pitched, whiny, smug - says 'if you don't want to read Asterix comics then don't make an Asterix website and don't create the World Cup of Asterix.' It's my voice, and I want to slap me.
Let's get this over with.
Asterix and the Secret Weapon: Review
Secret Weapon starts with the women of the village taking their kids away from Cacofonix the bard because his school has a bad reputation. They've hired a new, female, teacher from Paris. This sets the theme for the book - men against women.
The new teacher arrives and is instantly awful. She mocks Obelix for not being able to do maths, calls him fat, and is generally uppity. The story crawls at a glacial pace for the next ten pages or so (and is exactly as funny as being shouted at by that teacher you hated in school). Finally, Julius Caesar appears, and we think the action might finally start.
But it's a false dawn - the secret weapon sails from Rome - very, very slowly - and the real action begins crazily late in the book.
Before that, though, we have to wade through a tale of Gaulish feminism. The new teacher/bard gets the women of the village riled up and they strike out for equality and independence. What does Uderzo think about this? Well, we need only look to Getafix, always the moral compass of the story.
The village descends into some kind of socialist dystopia, with the teacher/bard (I can't even be bothered to look up her name, that's how little I care about her) moving from feminist to full-blown Stalinist in a few panels. Does Uderzo really equate women's rights with collectivism?
Uderzo's attitude is clear - he detests the women's lib movement. He draws Asterix doing the single most out-of-place and out-of-character thing he has ever done - hitting a woman.
Asterix is ashamed of himself, but Obelix comforts him. 'You wouldn't have hit her if she was good-looking!' Ah. So that's it.
The nightmarish descent into Uderzo's unreconstructed psyche is paused when Julius Caesar's secret weapon finally makes its appearance - it's a hundred FEMALE Roman soldiers. It's as though Uderzo sat at his desk and said 'what's the worst thing that could ever happen to France?' and the first thing he wrote was 'more women'.
This guy. Seriously.
Ugh. I can't even wrap things up. I HAVE to complain about the worst bit. So the new teacher/bard has engineered a female uprising and the males of the village have fled. Asterix discovers the Roman secret weapon and runs back to the village to warn the new female leadership of the threat. What does he find? Have the women created a better conflict-free way of life? Have they created their socialist utopia?
No, they're doing a fashion show.
And the Roman Femmes Fatales have redecorated their camp with flowery tents. Because women only care about the superficial, right Uderzo? Yeah! You stick it to them!
Oh, and the legionaries are scared of spiders and the climactic final battle between the two sets of women is pre-empted when the Roman ladies discover great shopping opportunities in the village and decide to browse instead of pillage.
The most interesting panel in the book is when Obelix bursts into tears. Now that the women have taken over, his skills are useless. What exactly is Uderzo afraid of? A world where women have prominent roles as, say, comic book artists and reviewers? Where would that leave misogynistic dinosaurs like him? Curled up in a ball, weeping.
This book isn't awful because it's so messed up in its portrayal of women. I can think of lots of classic books and movies where women are treated worse. The problem is that in Asterix and the Secret Weapon, misogyny is all we get! There's no fun, no jokes, no baddie, no pace, no Dogmatix, no fish fight.
And so, without me even bothering to open it, Asterix and the Black Gold wins this round and goes into the next phase of the tournament. My copy of Asterix and the Secret Weapon gets forwarded to the guys at 'How Did This Get Made?'