Asterix and the Picts - what did you think?

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Asterix and the Picts - what did you think?

Beitrag: #Beitrag appianglorious »

Last time I was here, the forum was erupting about The Falling Sky, which was quite a few years ago! Asterix and the Picts heralds a new era for Asterix with a new illustrator and a new author ready to take the series into the future. It's also the first time I've ever bought Asterix as an e-book, so it marks a new era in a different way.

The book is the series' strongest since Magic Carpet -- the story is more coherent and more engaging than Falling Sky, All at Sea and Actress. At the same time, the book still feels very 'post-Goscinny' and has many of the flaws that have bedevilled the series since Uderzo finished off Belgains. The main story borrows heavily from The Great Divide and Magic Carpet - so there are princesses in distress, a handsome lead, a wicked-looking villain and some clumsy plotting especially at the end (climaxes were never Uderzo's strong point ...) with Asterix and Obelix often relegated to a background role as the story unfolds.

The art work is on the whole very good. Asterix and Obelix look just right, although Conrad lacks Uderzo's ability to convey movement. The background characters tend not to be drawn in Uderzo's style and the overall composition of many of the frames is more cluttered and less satisfying than Uderzo's work, which even in his late period was exemplary.

The script is much better than Uderzo's recent efforts but is far from perfect. A lot of Ferri's dialogue is very flat and characterisation is pretty poor even with the main characters. Geriatrix seems to have become a stereotypical old man rather than the young man in an old man's body he's always been before. Getafix spends much of his time looking through his potions. Obelix seems unconcerned about the lack of boar - he doesn't eat any until the final frame! Uderzo was always brilliant at capturing the Asterix-Obelix dynamic perfectly even in The Falling Sky -- that's not true of this book. The Romans don't fair too well either - they look great, but they lack the strong characterisation of the Uderzo-Goscinny books. Both they and the pirates get through the book without a single classical allusion! The census character seemed particularly pointless. And the picts seemed a bit of a lost opportunity - the multi-coloured picts at the end would have been a starting point for Goscinny, not an end-point. They are nothing like the Britons, or even the Corsicans or Belgians. I thought there would be lots of haggis/Macbeth/bagpipes/deep-fried Mars bars kind of gags - even the 'malted water' line seemed a bit weak (compare with the Norman's 'magic potion' for example). On the plus side, I quite liked Nessie - she shouldn't have worked but I liked her relationship with Obelix a lot.

It's unfair to compare this to Asterix in Britain, but it is better than recent volumes and has enough going for it to make me feel that the series has a future. The series could do with a different writer - Conrad is good (enough) but the writing really needs to better at characterisation for the series to really succeed.

Re: Asterix and the Picts - what did you think?

Beitrag: #Beitrag Limerix »

While the story may not be the most original, I think there was a conscious effort(in light of the preceding oddball offerings) to go back to basics with this book. Ally that to the new place and people visited, puns, wordplay and cultural references aplenty and you have a pretty successful return to form for Asterix.

To give a few examples, on the first page of the story we get "Poor old Geriatrix! He's always been inclined to ramble on" meaning: 1. he talks too much and 2. he leans on and walks with a stick.

The next page reminds us that you should only buy oysters in months with an r in them, luckily it's February which has two, so the world is their oyster as Obelix notes. On the third page Obelix ventures that the pict with his tattoos, might be a footballer, who after all, do that sort of thing in the transfer season.

The book is full of clever stuff like this, later on we get a bard, a Johnny Hallyday lookalike named Maccool, after the French title(meaning my mouth) of one of the singers biggest hits, his hit song Hush is also referenced. His namesake, the hero of Irish/Scottish legend, is acknowledged as well in that he has knowledge of an instrument shaped like a fish with a fin(probably a salmon).

There are also numerous references, by way of old English and Scottish folk songs, to the independence referendum. A few mentions of a Salmon, an obvious nod to the former SNP leader Salmond, crop up on occasion also.

In voting for a new leader, even the pict nats find the independent's talk heavy going. One pict, dressed in white with a red cross, has nothing to say on the matter. Other recent debates in Britain also get a mention - the eldest daughter should succeed to the throne, proportional representation, quotas for minorities etc.

Some people haven't been all that impressed with the puns used for the pictish characters but both French and English versions are devilishly clever. In France our pictish hero is Macoloch(ma coloc meaning my roomate) - a son of the loch. In English he's Macaroon, a French tasty treat, or according to Samuel Johnson(an 18th c English man of letters notoriously bigoted towards the Scots), a coarse rude low fellow.

In French there's Mac Mamah a brilliantly clever nod to one of Goscinny and Uderzo's other creations Oumpa pah. Admittedly this is somewhat lost in the English version Macmama. The druid is Macrobiotix, the kid is Macmini the rebellious tribe led by a traitor are the Maccabees headed by Maccabaeus(also a pun on French slang for a dead person - probably why he's green), all great stuff perfectly suited to the information/explanation at your fingertips, age of the internet.

Whisky, porridge, Nessie, tartan, caber tossing and the origins of golf all feature as well. The Scots have been well served overall, as an Irishman and after nearly 30 years I still await Asterix in Ireland(they could visit Obelix's cousin O'Bollix ;D).