The World Cup of Asterix is a project to find the best ever Asterix book. It's the first knockout stage, and today it's Asterix the Gladiator crossing tridents and nets with Asterix and the Actress.
Asterix and the Actress Review
I read Asterix and the Actress earlier today and didn't remember a single frame of it. The weird thought struck me - I had never read it before! How strange. I thought I'd read them all many times over.
Anyway, it's preeeeetty good. It's not at all funny and the plot is a bit messy but the artwork is much better than in Gladiator and there are some good moments. Scratch that - some sublime moments. Look at the construction of this panel:
Fair play to Uderzo - When he's good, he's good. It's his storytelling skills that are in question. So what of the story?
First, Asterix and Obelix's mothers visit the village to celebrate their children's birthday, and quickly set about trying to get them to finally marry someone. This whole part feels like padding - the overbearing mothers don't drive the plot and provide excuses for pointless scenes of our heroes being forced to interact with unattractive women.
Side note - their mothers should know better. We all know the truth about the relationship between A and O. I plan to write a whole article (or series, since there's so much material) about their forbidden love.
Next in the story - Pompey wants to raise an army against his former ally Julius Caesar. For some reason this demands that he recover some ceremonial weapons. Why? Who cares. Not me, and not Uderzo, since he never explains it.
Dammit - I just realised I do care. Why all the drama about the helmet and sword? Pompey himself admits it'd be better to just leave them alone, since it's imperative not to alert Caesar to his plans. Yet the whole book is about that!
So it's all annoyingly flimsy. As is the solution to getting the swag back - Pompey and his adviser decide to use an actress and dress her up like the delectable Panacea. They somehow know that Obelix has a crush on Panacea. How? I guess they could know that, but it seems a stretch.
Another lame bit is where Caesar's armies are looking for men loyal to Pompey. Of course, they're all dressed the same. This Roman-on-Roman confusion was mined beautifully in Asterix and the Goths, but here it falls flat, except for one beautiful panel:
The book is actually full of missed opportunities.
Example - when Panacea is finally in the same place as the imposter, the real Panacea just pulls her wig off. It would have been interesting and potentially funny if the deception had carried on a bit longer - let the husband have to decide which is his true wife.
When the wig is off, Asterix forgives the actress instantly. (She lied to him, stole his birthday present, and ran off with his horse and cart leaving him stranded.) Huh? That came out of no-where.
But still, I thought it was going to be tough deciding on the winner of this and Asterix the Gladiator. Gladiator has dodgy art, but it's funny and charming and introduces many classic Asterixian elements like the pirates and helmet-collecting. The tie was in the balance until late in Actress when the following series of events takes place:
- Asterix is knocked out by Obelix (his best friend and soulmate, remember)
- Getafix gives Asterix some magic potion
- Asterix literally bounces around the village and into the ocean
- Asterix is tossed but does not sink - instead he gets smacked into a rock
- He tries to swim ashore but the storm takes him under. He's going to die. There's literally nothing that can help him. Nothing. He's dead. He's a goner.
Asterix saved by a dolphin. Asterix jumps the shark, but with a mammal.
Asterix and the Gladiator goes through to the next round.