Ask anyone what is the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of France and the answer will vary from person to person. Ask a comic book geek and the answer will be Asterix. One of the world’s most renowned comic book characters of all time. Asterix and Obelix have been in existence since the very beginning of the 1950s. They have fans of all ages. Clean, fun humor coupled with a historical set up and hilarious situations and settings make it, in my opinion atleast, the best comic book series after Tintin. The first issue in this series is Asterix The Gaul written by Rene Goscinny and illustrated beautifully by Albert Uderzo. I absolutely love the illustrations. Almost every frame has an easter egg in the form of background characters. You need to have a sharp eye to find one otherwise you will miss it entirely.
The setting for all Asterix stories is a little Armorican village which has not been conquered by Julius Ceaser in 50 BC. The village has held out because their village druid, Getafix, brews a magic potion that can give them temporary super-human strength. They have fought off the Romans every time because of this potion. Asterix is a warrior and dimunitive in size whereas his trusty friend and sidekick Obelix is a giant obese menhir sculptor and delivery man. The one thing every new reader will notice in this series is the names of characters. The druid is called Getafix, Chief of Asterix’s village is Vitalstatistix. So on and so forth.
In the very first issue, Getafix the druid is kidnapped by Centurion Crismus Bonus after he plants a spy in the Gaul village to learn the secret of the Gauls’ superhuman strength that knocked out 4 of Crismus Bonus’ soldiers by one man. Crismus Bonus also thinks that when he gets the recipe for the magic potion, he will finally be able to overthrow Julius Cease. Getafix is tortured by Crismus Bonus in the cruellest form – Tickling his feet by feathers, in order to get the recipe of the potion. But the druid does not give in. Meanwhile Asterix learns of the kidnapping and along with Obelix sets out to rescue him and hilarity ensues. The gags work brilliantly and so does the art. The dialogues are not that strong. When you read the book, you will notice that most of the story progresses through the art and the dialogue only supports it. Most of the times the story moves forward in this fashion. This is not bad. Infact, this is the way a comic book is supposed to be.
The first book is a nice introduction to the world of Asterix and Obelix. This book nicely settles the new reader with the quirky characters and plots. Because it is the first book, some of the characters are still being developed. At least that’s what I felt while reading. It’s a simple story but brilliant art and hilarious gags make it fun to read. It genuinely makes you smile if not laugh. Perfect book to read on a quiet Sunday morning.