Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Comic Book Review - Asterix and the Picts - Jean-Yves Ferri (Author), Didier Conrad (Illustrator) and Anthea Bell (Translator)

Comic Book Review – Asterix and the Picts

Recommended for all ages

This is a big moment for the Asterix series. For the first time ever, Albert Uderzo has handed over the reins to a new creative team, author Jean-Yves Ferri and illustrator Didier Conrad. This is both a very exciting and a very nerve-wracking development for several reasons. The first is the obvious worry of whether or not this new creative team can match the giddy heights that Uderzo and Rene Goscinny reached with the very best Asterix stories. Secondly, you’re unlikely to find a fan that doesn’t believe the books have gone a little downhill in recent times, so the chance to have some new direction is much the same as Disney acquiring the rights to Star Wars. It’s unfair to level too much criticism at Uderzo, who took over the writing side of the stories upon the death of Goscinny, because this wasn’t his role in the earliest and best years. Personally, I think he’s done a brilliant job keeping it going, with the exception of his last full Asterix publication, Asterix and the Falling Sky, which I have to say was one of the biggest disappointments and blights on a series that I love since the Star Wars prequel trilogy.

That’s a bit of a lengthy introduction to a general review, so it’s probably time for me to endeth the history lesson and get on with the main show. So, does this show the Asterix series back on track? In a word, yes, Definitely. It’s fun, full of adventure, and the new team have recreated that classic Asterix-humour perfectly, from the word play in the character’s names, to banter between them all. It’s also due, of course, to the translator (shouldn’t forget this with a foreign language to English book!) Anthea Bell, who has translated every Asterix book from the very beginning. This includes the names in particular, and there’s a wonderful running joke of ‘Mac’s’ throughout this story that continues her fine tradition.

In the story, a frozen Pict (MacAroon) washes up on the shores of the Gaulish village. Asterix and Obelix vow to return him to his village in Caledonia, and find out who was responsible for pushing him into the water in the first place. When they get there, they have to help stop the perpetrator from proclaiming himself King of the Picts, and find where his fiancé has been imprisoned. It feels just like a classic Asterix adventure, in the vein of Asterix in Britain (for obvious reasons), and it’s leaps and bounds ahead of Falling Sky (though that’s not hard).

Didier Conrad has recreated Uderzo’s drawing style faultlessly – there’s no way at all you could tell it wasn’t done by the original illustrator if you weren’t told beforehand. It’s a key factor to retaining the feel of the original books, and it further cements the fact that the series is in safe hands.

I’m eagerly awaiting the next instalment, and with a younger team (and fantastic translator!) overseeing the series’ future I hope we’ll see further books much more regularly. If you’re a big Asterix fan, this will restore your faith in the adventures of Gaul’s greatest heroes.


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