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 and the Golden Sickle crossing swords with Asterix and the Falling Sky.
Asterix and the Golden Sickle
This is the second Asterix book, and the first thing you notice is how strange the art looks compared to later. Check out Cacofonix - he's barely recognisable:
The plot kicks off with Getafix breaking his Golden Sickle - disaster! After all, as everyone knows, mistletoe has to be cut with with a Golden Sickle in order to have magical properties. Sadly, the way to Lutetia (Paris) is dangerous. No matter, Asterix and Obelix will go!
Off they trot, and the slightly discordant nature of the comic continues. Twice Asterix drinks the magic potion before seeing any bad guys. I'm pretty sure that never happens in later comics. There's also a shortage of puns, some of the panel layouts are odd and confusing, and some of the colouring is decidedly wonky. More familiarly, there's some nice visuals (I especially like the Roman buildings), plenty of drunks with key plot information, and Obelix using his strength in creative ways.
Back to the story. What's happening is that Obelix's cousin (the best sicklesmith on the continent) has vanished and there are no sickles to be had, except at extortionate prices.
Asterix is led on a wild goose chase around the city, but ultimately solves the mystery of the sickle shortage and rescues the cousin.
Rating - we can forgive the crudity of the art (even top artists like Uderzo improve with practice) and there are some good bits. Overall it's a bit flat and repetitive. Should be easy to beat. Right?
Asterix and the Falling Sky
You know in reality shows where there is some absolute oaf who comes on stage, horrifies everyone with his appearance and/or lack of talent? And half the time he gets through to the next round just because the producers want to keep him in the contest because the audience has such a visceral reaction to him that the show is sure to dominate the ratings while he's still around?
That's not going to happen here. I'll say it upfront - this comic is abysmal in every way and I hate it in every way.
It starts off - (and on panel 1 you're thinking, what's happening with the colours here? Somehow everything is way too bright and childish) - it starts off with everyone in the village being frozen. Don't panic yet though! There's magic in Asterix. Maybe this is just some peculiar magical phenomenon.
(Christ, even the FONT is annoying! What's with the lower case 'i'? It looks shit.)
Why is everyone frozen? The answer comes in the most depressing page in the history of comics (yes, including Maus):
It's a giant spacecraft! With his writing partner long dead, and apparently no-one to reign in his brainfarts, Uderzo has decided to indulge in a sci-fi fantasy, filled with anti-American images.
Out of the space-uterus is birthed a hateful Mickey Mouse clone:
Quickly followed by a hateful Arnold Schwarzenegger robot (dressed as Captain America):
I've read some theories that Uderzo was not really mocking America but lamenting the state of the French comic book industry. Well, writing this shit doesn't help restore its glory, does it? And that doesn't explain why the aliens eat hot dogs (considered disgusting by the Gauls).
I had a bunch of other stuff to show you and complain about, but copy/pasting the images is making me sad. Instead, here's the solitary panel I liked in the comic:
That's the bad aliens facing off against the good aliens, with Asterix's village in the background. There's a kind of grace and harmony to the picture. It simply shouldn't be in an Asterix book.
It seems like Uderzo himself knew he'd committed a crime against his own creation. At the end, the good alien (Mickey Mouse dude) erases everyone's memory.
"I'll fix it for the Gauls to remember nothing about me, thus obliterating all traces of this grotesque adventure."
If only he could repeat the trick on me.
Rating - Zero out of a billion.
Asterix and the Golden Sickle goes into the next round.