Title: Asterix the Gaul.
Writer(s): René Goscinny.
Illustrator(s): Albert Uderzo.
Release Date: February 5th, 2013 (First published 1961).
Genre(s): Comics, Historical Fiction.
My Overall Rating:
Considered within the Franco-Belge world as one of the most important and iconic comic book series ever created, Asterix has garnered the attention of millions since its release in the 1960s. Growing up, the characters and their stories were often cited by adults, often within a humouristic context, especially with the silly yet memorable life lessons that the series had to offer. Despite the passing of René Goscinny in 1977 and Albert Uderzo in 2020, the Asterix franchise continues to grow, with stories now being published by the latest creative team led by writer Jean-Yves Ferri and artist Didier Conrad.
What is Asterix the Gaul about? In the year 50 B.C., the Gaul area is under Roman control except for a little village called Armorica (Armorique). It is in this village that the druid Getafix (Panoramix) creates a very special potion that turns anyone invincible, especially the little yet imposing Asterix (Astérix). Refusing defeat and desperately seeking ways to overthrow this Gaul village, Centurion Crismus Bonus (Caius Bonus) sends a spy disguised as a Gaul to find answers. Once he discovers the existence of the mysterious magic potion, a plan is put forth and Centurion Crismus Bonus will do anything to get his hands on the recipe that might in fact allow him to rule over Ceasar (César).
“Cette potion… a sûrement… quelque chose de magique!”— René Goscinny
Within this first volume, short in itself, writer René Goscinny introduces his core cast and their peculiar traits right from the get-go. With the dynamic duo, Asterix and Obelix, readers will promptly understand that Romans will have a tough time getting what they want, and so, as long as their druid Getafix continues to concoct his magic potion for their village of Gauls, making them unstoppable. This first story also clearly establishes the tone of the franchise through its quirky characters and the humouristic banter that invades the narrative. Mockery and insults are often common practice within this world as bad guys suffer at the hands of the good guys, with Gauls who simply make a fool out of Romans more often than not. Wordplays and puns are also key to this volume’s success, so effortlessly written into the dialogues.
Albert Uderzo’s artwork is also fantastic and deserves just as much love and praise as his partner’s writing. The character designs are wonderful and memorable, expressive and poignant from one panel to another. While sticking to a traditional panel structure, there’s also an impressive grasp on movement and expression within the artwork. The colours are also incredibly vivid, conveniently giving the story life and energy at a single glance of the pages. Where this first volume mostly suffers is thus not within its artistic direction but in its narrative. While it is amusing to watch Romans struggle while Gauls play around with their enemy’s silliness, the pacing isn’t perfect and the humour isn’t groundbreaking. However, this first adventure allows readers to get acquainted with these characters and that’s where the fun is all at.
Asterix the Gaul is an entertaining adventure introducing the protagonist and his friends while ridiculizing their Roman enemies and their desperate desire for the druid’s powerful magic potion.