Asterix and the Picts, by Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad

Review published on January 21, 2014.Reviewed by Erin Britton

Nudge Reviewer Rating:

Following the almost universal critical panning of Asterix and the Falling Sky (aka the one with the aliens) and the lukewarm reception for Asterix and Obelix’s Birthday: The Golden Book, it seemed that the popular series was dying a painful death under the sole-stewardship of Albert Uderzo. While Uderzo’s art was as good as ever, he couldn’t craft the fun, adventurous and exciting plots that the late Rene Goscinny had masterminded for Asterix and Co. Fortunately though, after a few years hiatus, the series is being relaunched in fine fashion by Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad with their first title (the thirty-fifth in the series so far) being Asterix and the Picts.

While out beachcombing one particularly chilly February morning, Obelix discovers a tartan-clad warrior frozen in a block of ice. Once thawed out and speaking in predominantly coherent sentences, this Pictish popsicle places Asterix and Obelix in a pickle as, no doubt due to the very warm welcome that he receives from the Gaulish lady-folk, Chief Vitalstatistix deputises them to escort the mighty MacAroon back home to Scotland and reunite him with his fiancée Camomilla. This of course turns out to be a far from straightforward enterprise, with Asterix and Obelix having to contend with pirates, Roman, the Loch Ness monster and the villainous MacCabaeus before they are able to reunite MacAroon with his love.

Asterix and the Picts is a great debut from Ferri and Conrad. While the storyline is perhaps not quite as detailed as some of the classic Asterix stories, it is engaging, funny and coherent. Asterix and Obelix (and the rest of the Gaulish regulars) all behave as they should, with lots of fighting, eating and wise-cracking being indulged in as they try to help MacAroon. There are a couple of slight wobbles story-wise (MacAroon’s early nonsensical ramblings, too much Nessie/not enough Dogmatix) but overall Asterix’s trip to Caledonia plays out well as he and Obelix [both on purpose and inadvertently] find wrongs to right and Romans to bash behind every caber.

In addition to the action-packed, fun-filled storyline, Asterix and the Picts is an incredibly visually pleasing comic. Didier Conrad’s art is seamless; every character is perfectly realised and true to Uderzo’s original style. Given the vitriol that was spilled on Uderzo’s solo Asterix efforts, it’s good to see that he has given his blessing to the new team – he’s actually drawn some of the cover illustration along with Conrad. There are plenty of sight gags in addition to Ferri’s jokes and many of the panels feature amusing details and secondary characters that serve to enhance the humour of the central storyline.

Asterix and the Picts is a really good edition to the Asterix cannon. Ferri and Conrad clearly love the plucky Gaul and his pals and have put a lot of effort into getting the tone and appearance of the story just right. Here’s to hoping that it’s not too long before they bring out their next Asterix adventure.

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