New to the World Cup of Asterix? Read this introduction to find out what it's all about.
Asterix and Son
The book starts with Obelix revealing his childlike innocence - he's had a dream in which a stork has delivered a baby to the village. Asterix is amused. 'One of these days you and I must have a little talk, Obelix!' So far so charming, but the real kick is at the end of the page - there is indeed a baby there.
There's a few pages of the bachelors trying to feed and change the infant, before finally asking for help from the village elders. This leads to some predictably bitchy innuendo from the chief's wife.
It's an interesting scene - it's too adult for kids to laugh at (if they even have the first idea what it all means) and too snide for adults to enjoy. Plus, hasn't Asterix given us 25 books of unremitting heroism? Why would everyone - even Getafix! - suddenly turn against him?
Once Asterix decides to investigate the local Roman camps for clues about the baby's identity the story kicks into a higher gear. There's some great artwork, Latin jokes, and puns. When the villain of the story (Brutus) arrives and builds himself a camp there's a wonderfully energetic series of panels showing the Roman military machine in all its precision and splendour. Except:
One dude has built himself a private fort because the other soldiers snore. Amusing!
Brutus sends a disguised legionary into Asterix's village - his job is to snatch the baby. The baby has fallen into a cauldron of magic potion though, so the legionary scarpers. He's given Brutus a new idea - he orders Captain Cactus to dress up like a woman and pretend to be a nursemaid for hire.
Cactus is pissed, but plays the role really well. The setup borders on irritating but just about works. The ploy fails because the baby is still invincible, so Brutus decides to incinerate the whole village. A bit of an over-reaction, you might think, but Uderzo draws some beautiful night-time fire scenes.
But the fire (and the ensuing battle) was just a distraction! Impedimenta - who has spent the entire book being a dick - loses the baby to Brutus, who then sails off with our old friends the pirates.
Asterix and Obelix rescue the baby and return to the village triumphant. There's a surprise as a special guest appears:
What an entrance! Caesar's spies have told him what Brutus was up to. But he doesn't realise the importance of the baby. 'That baby, o Caesar, is your son!!' says a voice. What? Another new character arriving at the last minute?
A bit silly, but forgivable because it's an awesome act of one-upmanship and a great piece of art.
The story ends with Caesar promising to rebuild Asterix's village and Cleopatra hosting the feast on her galley.
Asterix and Son is a strange one - I read it quite recently and hated it. Re-reading it again today I quite enjoyed it. There are some mis-steps and some good bits. All in all, a pretty good Asterix.
However, it's up against Asterix in Britain, which is better, so that's the end of the article.