The World Cup of Asterix is a project to find the best ever Asterix book. We're in the first knockout stage, and today it's one of the pre-tournament favourites - Asterix and the Roman Agent - against Asterix in Corsica. One shall stand; one shall fall!
Asterix in Corsica
How much you enjoy Asterix in Corsica probably depends on what you know about the island and its people. Uderzo was certainly enchanted. When he went to scout the location he said, "It was so beautiful with all the colours of the leaves; reds and yellows. I tried to recreate it in my pictures but there wasn't time to do it justice." It looks fine to me:
The story is typical Asterix - our heroes travel to a new location where some badasses are giving the Romans headaches. Every stereotype is harvested and thrown into the pot. The problem for me as a kid and also me as an adult is - I don't know anything about Corsica. (It's obviously much more present in the minds of the French.)
We quickly learn that they are stubborn:
We also learn that Corsicans are dour, emotionless people whose only visible expression is rage. They are misogynists who nuture grudges and threaten violence against anyone who so much as talks to one of 'their' women. Oh, and their cheese stinks.
These unsympathetic characters do have some redeeming qualities - a healthy disdain for work, a love of the quiet life, amusing alarm systems (pulling a donkey's tail alerts a boy who throws an apple at a pig, whose oinks are interpreted by a fisherman).
The story itself is forgettable - it's just a vehicle for Asterix and Obelix to go to Corsica and poke around. Good but not great.
Asterix and the Roman Agent
Roman Agent is one of the comics I remember most vividly from my youth. Like Corsica, there's a theme of disharmony running through it. But while the Corsicans tear their own society apart through their own stupidity, in Roman Agent it's all the work of Tortuous Convolvulus.
He's a puny weakling with the gift of sowing discord wherever he goes. He was sent to the circus to be eaten by lions, but he made the lions turn on each other.
He's introduced to Caesar and before the Roman Agent even opens his mouth, various senators begin bickering with one another. Is it just luck?
It maintains that level throughout. It. Is. Brilliant. Even reading it for the hundredth time I laughed out loud.
WINNER BY WAY OF PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE
Asterix and the Roman Agent sails through to the next round.