The World Cup of Asterix...
...kicks off with Asterix the Legionary facing up against Asterix and the Great Divide.
The rules are simple - best book goes through to the next round! For the first contest, I've decided to compare the books on 3 categories - their plots, the fun factor, and what I call the 'je ne sais quoi' quotient.
1 - Wholey Holey Plots
In Legionary, a Gaul has been shanghaied into joining the Roman army. Instead of just tracking him down by conventional methods, Asterix decides to join the army himself. Um... okay? Even as a kid I thought that was a stretch, but it does set up some hilarious situations, so we'll let it slide.
Meanwhile Great Divide is consistently preposterous. Not only has a Berlin Trench been dug in a little Gaulish village, but there's also a Romeo and Juliet style romance going on. Further, the main baddie is a fish-human (he seems to literally be a fish) and Asterix and Obelix are shoehorned into the action (there's really no need for them to be involved). There is also a deeply stupid plot twist - the Romans get a pot of magic potion which should make them invincible. But they've previously drunk some other magic potion, and the side-effects of drinking both are... unfortunate. AND the plot relies on the Romans allowing Getafix to feed an entire cauldron of potion to some imprisoned Gauls - in every other book I can remember the Romans make a legionary try the potion first.
Both books involve Obelix crying for romantic reasons. In Legionary it's because he's lovesick, and a lovesick Obelix is a hilarious Obelix. His crush, Panacea, has a similar effect on everyone, leading to a deeply satisfying final panel. In Great Divide, Obelix cries because he's so moved by the relationship between Histrionix (Romeo) and Melodrama (Juliet). Pointless and lame.
2 - The Fun Factor
Great Divide has a village split into a left side and a right side, and there are dozens of left/right puns throughout the comic. There are some good gags about Vitalstatistix and his first-world problem of being carried on his shield in a less-than-optimal manner.
There are fish jokes that follow Codifix (the fish dude) wherever he goes. They are not funny because his entire existence is not funny.
Legionary starts with a funny setup - Obelix has a crush, leading to some great visual gags and a laugh when Asterix calls Panacea. Obelix says 'shush - she might hear you!' Love in a nutshell! The next set of jokes are anti-bureaucracy ones. Then Asterix and Obelix usurp various 'you're in the army now' tropes, with the help of a smattering of foreigners. (One of the funniest bits is when all the new recruits are complaining about the appalling food - except for the Briton, who enjoys it.) The second half isn't as funny as the first, but it has already trounced its opponent.
3 - The Je Ne Sais Quoitient
(All the other bits that affect the decision)
Legionary is sometimes said to be too similar to Asterix the Gladiator, while the attractive young people in Great Divide are said to be too similar to their equivalents in Legionary. A little bit of copying never hurt anyone. Just ask James Cameron! Or the writers of Asterix vs Hitler!
Great Divide was the first Asterix book written by Uderzo alone (Goscinny died in 1977). It's not bad, but it shows his predilection for the fantastical - a fish person and inflatable Romans are just the start of his unfettered brain farts. There is one scene though, where this tendency turns to virtue. It's when Histrionix looks back on his village, and the smoke from the chimneys reminds him of...
A final point in Legionary's favour - Panacea (right) is much hotter than Melodrama.
By way of knockout - ASTERIX THE LEGIONARY.
Legionary progresses to the next round, while Great Divide is eliminated.