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Title: Asterix the Gaul
Series: Asterix #1
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Translators: Bell & Hockridge
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
All of the Gaul area is under Roman control, except for one small village in Armorica (present-day Brittany), whose inhabitants are made invincible by a magic potion created periodically by the Druid Getafix. To discover the secret of the Gauls’ strength, Centurion Crismus Bonus, commander of a Roman garrison at the fortified camp of Compendium, sends a spy disguised as a Gaul to the village. The Roman’s identity is revealed when he loses his false moustache, shortly after he discovers the existence of the magic potion; whereupon he reports his discovery to the Centurion.
Crismus Bonus, hoping to overthrow Julius Caesar, orders Getafix captured and interrogated for the recipe; but to no avail. Protagonist Asterix learns of Getafix’s capture from a cart-seller; infiltrates the Roman camp in the latter’s cart; and hears Crismus Bonus revealing his intended rebellion to Marcus Ginandtonicus, his second-in-command. Following Asterix’s suggestion, Getafix pretends to agree to the Centurion’s demand of the potion when Asterix pretends to give in to torture, and demands an unseasonal ingredient: strawberries. While Crismus Bonus’ soldiers try to find strawberries, Asterix and Getafix relax in relative luxury; and when the strawberries arrive, consume them all, and console Crismus Bonus that the potion may be made without them.
After all the ingredients are found, a potion is prepared that causes the hair and beard of the drinker to grow at an accelerated pace. The Romans are tricked into drinking this potion and before long, all of them have long hair and beards. When Crismus Bonus pleads Getafix to make an antidote, the druid makes a cauldron of vegetable soup (knowing that the hair-growth potion shall soon cease to take effect), and also prepares a small quantity of the real magic potion for Asterix. As Getafix and Asterix escape, they are stopped by a huge army of Roman reinforcements commanded by Julius Caesar. Upon meeting Asterix and Getafix, Caesar hears of Crismus Bonus’ intentions against himself; deports Crismus Bonus and his garrison to Outer Mongolia; and frees Asterix and Getafix for giving him the information, while reminding them that they are still enemies. The two Gauls then return to their village, where their neighbors celebrate their recovery.
I read many of the Asterix & Obelix stories growing up because my father collected these and we would buy them for him as birthday and Christmas presents. Since we were allowed to read them, very carefully, it was almost like we were getting ourselves a present too. Score! It was a hap-hazard reading journey though and I never bothered to read them all. Since I was looking for other comics to read besides Spawn and I really wasn’t interested in most of the Marvel or DC lineups (not even the old stuff), I recalled this series and jumped on it. Most of the books are only 50’ish pages long and each story is a self contained one, so it works out really well.
There are 38 of these stories. This story was published originally in 1961 in French and the translation I am reading was done in 2004. I might have to check with my pops to see who did the translations of his editions and see what the differences are. That type of thing is interesting to me so it’s worth exploring.
This type of comic is written for both adults and children. The kids will love the bright colors, the funny violence of tiny Asterix beating up four Roman soldiers at once, the contrast between Asterix and his giant friend Obelix. The adults will enjoy the very funny word plays and jokes in latin and the names of places and characters.
The beginning of the book introduces us to each character, the situation (that all of Gaul except this one village has been conquerered by Rome) and what the plot is for this particular book. We’re talking a One Stop Shopping kind of deal. Rather refreshing to be honest.