I admit I’ve been hesitant in reading the new Asterix book. A few cartoonist friends got copies after its launch and their response made me cautious. That all said, the magic of Christmas had placed a copy beneath the tree for me so I’ve now read and digested. But is it any good?
The state of the Roman road network is a shambles so when the senator responsible is challenged in the senate he foolishly boasts of the roads superiority instead (an almost Trumpian moment). He announces a one-off chariot race to showcase them, along the length of the Italic peninsula and open to all nations under Roman rule. As you’d expect, Asterix and Obelix find themselves owners of a chariot and end up entering, but it’s by no means a foregone conclusion that they’ll win when a masked charioteer begins to dominate each stage.
Ferri and Conrad have an immensely tough act to follow and I would like to think that they acknowledge they’re not Goscinny and Uderzo and can only do their best to compliment their styles. On that basis it’s a pretty good job, with all the Asterix touches that you love. There’s absurd names, cultural stereotypes where nobody gets off the hook, running gags such as the pirates (they sink, naturally) and some lovely artwork throughout. Conrad is a very good Uderzo mimic, but he isn’t Uderzo, so Obelix isn’t quite tall enough, there’s a couple of panels where Asterix’s face looks like a second go would have been in order, and he can’t seem to master Caesar’s look at all, but on the whole his characters and scenes sit astoundingly well alongside the past books.
Ferri’s script does a good job too, sitting somewhere between Goscinny’s original tales and Uderzo’s sometimes lopsided later stories, although the state of the roads, which is the entire reason for the race, doesn’t get mentioned again until three pages from the end so it can’t have been that big an issue.
So on the whole, it’s not that bad at all. As I believe I said of the previous book, the series is in good hands, but we do have to remember those are now different hands.
And if you liked that: Lucky Luke has some fresh, new stories by new creative teams too. Check them out – they’re rather good.