Asterix World Cup: Quarter Final 2

My incredibly slow quest to determine the best Asterix comic crawls on! At this rate I'll be finished before Brexit happens! But will the Brits get kicked out of the Asterix community today?

The line-up:

  • Asterix in Spain
  • Asterix in Britain
  • Asterix the Legionary
  • Asterix and the Black Gold

(Puzzled by all this? Here's the introductory post.)

Asterix in Spain

It's been so long since I've read these books that it took me a minute to remember what the story here was. While it started to come back to me I felt a strange kind of depression spread through my bones.

Caesar conquers Spain, except one village, and to keep that village in line he kidnaps the son of the chief. [Feeling of dread intensifies.]

Once I saw the son, I understood why my body was reacting badly. Asterix in Spain is the one with this little brat:

If you've read it you'll know that holding his breath, biting people, and being a dick is this kid's whole deal. He's horrible and it's horrible watching him in action. And not in a good way. How did this get through the first round?

To take my mind off how much I hate that character I decided to start counting how many times people say Olé. That came to 47. Forty-seven. OTHER JOKES ARE AVAILABLE, dudes.

And how many times was it funny? Precisely once (maybe twice, depending on if you count the next panel as one or two). It's the scene where a disguised (and terrified) Roman pretends to be Spanish by singing Flamenco:

Pretty good. His knees doing the castanets is a good lark. 

Asterix in Spain is pretty boring. There's some really nice art and if you like puns they are ten-a-Spainy. The best bit is probably where Asterix loses his magic potion and gets tossed into a plaza de toros and invents bullfighting.

Asterix the Legionary

As soon as I saw the cover my mood changed. I think of this one as 'Asterix Joins the French Foreign Legion' even if that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Basically the plot takes him to Africa with a rag-tag band of international misfits.

What struck me early on was how great the story set-up is. A lot of Asterix 'act ones' are not great and you just have to wade through them to get to the meat. In Legionary it's all about how Obelix has a huge crush on Panacea and it's written perfectly. Anyone who's ever phoned their crush hoping they WON'T pick up the phone will recognise the truth of this scene:

Then it's off to Africa with the bunch of misfits, and what a great bunch they are:

The Brit loves the terrible food on offer, the German and Belgian take every chance to get a beer, and the Greek is a supreme polyglot and diplomat. The culture-clash jokes are deft and funny.

And this panel made me laugh out loud, which is super rare for anything that isn't It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia:

I had a whale of a time reading this, and the end was awesome too (which again, seems to be quite rare in Asterix). The Roman civil war comes to a head as Caesar's men clash with Pompey's. The fight scenes are epic, sweeping, magnificent - and uproariously silly.

Right now I'm scoring this 10/10 and I can't believe one of the next two will give me more enjoyment. But one of those IS Asterix in Britain, so maybe it's possible. Let's just get the other one out of the way first. Sigh.

Asterix and the Black Gold

Well, that was dire.

The artwork is a cut above the other two - it's really gorgeous and it's before they changed the font to the atrocity they use these days. The scenes in the middle-east are colourful, there's a really nice wide shot of Jerusalem, and there's no mistaking who the cameo is.

But it's really just a bunch of stuff thrown together and lacks the internal logic that Legionary has. Thinking back, Legionary set up countless jokes and paid them off again and again. Black Gold is just scene 1, scene 2, scene 3, with nothing really joining them together.

p.s. Talking animals.

Asterix in Britain

I have to say it was tough going from the eye-candy that is Black Gold... to this. The quality of the art and text is pretty rough. Anyway, Britain gets off to a good start with some easy jokes about the Britons losing to Caesar because they stopped to have a hot drink at 5 o'clock, the imperial system of distances and currency, and mint sauce.

And the weather. of course:

But there were quite a lot of bits that dragged. While Legionary is all about Obelix nobly trying to rescue his crush's crush, here the plot centres around... a barrel.

Sure it's a quality episode:

But a clear step down from Legionary, and so there's no doubt of today's winner.

As is my new custom, I compared my findings with Alexander Matthews's ratings for every Asterix book. He gave both Britain and Legionary 10/10, and he only awarded that score to 3 books. So they were unlucky to be drawn against each other so early, and Legionary has to fancy its chances of going all the way now.

Into the next round goes ASTERIX THE LEGIONARY.