The World Cup of Asterix...
...continues with Asterix and the Big Fight facing up against Asterix and the Magic Carpet.
Asterix and the Big Fight
The story is that a Romanophile chieftain is persuaded to challenge Vitalstatistix to a fight - the winner becomes chief of both villages. Apparently this really used to happen, so bonus points for good research.
The main catalyst for the plot is when Obelix throws his menhir towards some Romans and it hits Getafix instead. The druid loses his memory and forgets how to make magic potion. A potential disaster for everyone... So when Obelix continually throws menhirs towards Getafix for the rest of the comic, it's annoying. Except for one time, when it's hilarious. But they definitely went to that well too many times.
There are some good visual gags - such as this one of Cassius Ceramix when he's told who he has to fight:
And this one, where the very shouty Nebulus Nimbus asks to see his camouflage troops:
There's a great bit where Asterix takes the stricken Getafix to a shrink - Psychoanalytix (basically Sigmund Freud). He has some very funny solutions to his patients's problems, but he also ruins Obelix's self-confidence.
The art in general is good - not quite as good as in later books. My favourite panel was this one:
But the best bit of the book is the very strong punning that goes on. Everything the camouflage unit says is a tree- or foliage-based joke, including 'playing copse and robbers'. And Cacofonix sings 'If you were the only Gaul in the world...' - a pun so inspired one cannot laugh, but can merely stare, dumbstruck, at the page.
Sadly, the story is undermined by lots of silliness. Obelix ruining events is one thing, but when the writers do it by choice... We've got talking birds, magic potions that make people change colour, magic potions that make people fly............... and a talking bird. SIGH.
Asterix and the Magic Carpet
A drought forces an Indian to fly his magic carpet all the way to north-west France to find a bard whose voice is so awful it can make rain. The bard in question is Cacofonix, even though his voice has never led to rain in the 27 previous books. SIGH.
There are several pages of jokes that fall flat. Obelix is charmless and oafish, and Cacofonix sings while riding the magic carpet, putting himself and his friends in mortal danger. He then does it again while on a ship. In fact, there are pages and pages of Asterix, Obelix, Cacofonix and Watziznehm (the Indian) flying the carpet over Italy (where nothing much happens), Greece (where nothing much happens), the Middle-East (where nothing of consequence happens). It's 30 pages till they arrive in India.
When it comes time for Cacofonix to sing, he loses his voice. There's a bunch of stuff where some doctors try to cure him. Then there's some messing about in a jungle. Basically Uderzo made a list of everything he knew about India (magic carpets, fakirs, tigers, elephants) and wrote a bunch of stuff that led from one item to the next.
Oh, and there's a princess who will be sacrificed to the gods (to make it rain). She spends the whole book moping around waiting to be rescued. Oh, for a decent female role!
Bah, there's no need to go on. Magic Carpet is not entertaining or funny. Big Fight is flawed, but...
A first-round knockout for Asterix and the Big Fight.