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Title: Asterix and Cleopatra
Series: Asterix #6
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
The book begins with an argument between Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, and Julius Caesar. As a triumphant invader, Caesar belittles the Egyptian people and suggests that Egypt, as a realm, is past its best. Infuriated, Cleopatra makes a wager with Caesar promising to build a new palace in Alexandria within three months. Cleopatra summons Edifis, who claims to be the best architect in Egypt. She promises Edifis that if he builds the palace on time he will be covered with gold; if he fails, he will be a meal for the sacred crocodiles.
Edifis responds to this assignment by enlisting the help of the Gauls, Asterix, Obelix, Getafix, and Dogmatix. Thanks to Getafix and his magic potion, the work goes forward on schedule, despite multiple attempts by Edifis’s arch rival, Artifis, to sabotage the construction after Edifis says he doesn’t want his help, claiming Artifis works people too hard. Artifis tells the workers to demand less whipping, which would slow construction. However Getafix gives the workers magic potion. Artifis bribes the stone-delivery man to throw his load away, before Obelix beats him up, causing him to reveal the truth, a henchman tries to lock the Gauls inside a pyramid, but Dogmatix helps them find their way out. He subsequently tries to frame the Gauls by sending a poisoned cake to Cleopatra, but Getafix makes an antidote enabling the Gauls to eat it, then cures the taster and claims eating too much rich food was giving him a bad stomach. Edifis is kidnapped and hidden in a sarcophagus in the house of Artifis, but Obelix frees him. Artifis and his henchman are forced to work on the palace, but without magic potion.
Just before the palace is due to be completed, Caesar intervenes by sending legions to try to arrest the Gauls, after he realises the three Gauls are in Egypt when a spy disguises himself as a worker, and sees the effects of the magic potion. The Gauls fight off the Roman soldiers, but the commanding officer proceeds to shell the building with his catapults. In desperation, Asterix and Dogmatix deliver the news to Cleopatra. A furious Cleopatra then hurries to the construction site to berate Caesar. Caesar’s legions are ordered to fix the damage they caused (without any magic potion to help them) and the palace is successfully completed on time. Cleopatra wins her bet and covers Edifis with gold. Edifis and Artifis reconcile and agree to build pyramids together, and Cleopatra gives Getafix some papyrus manuscripts from the Library of Alexandria as a gift. The Gauls return, but Vitalstatistix criticises Obelix trying to give an Egyptian style point to menhirs.
Getafix the druid gets roped into helping an old friend in Egypt build a palace for Cleopatra, which is going to be a gift to Caesar. Asterix, Obelix and the magic potion get involved and hijinks ensue.
In each volume, every time Asterix and Obelix go on a boat they inevitably meet up with a specific pirate. In this volume he’s mortgaged his first born for a new boat and when they see Obelix yoo-hoo’ing at them (he’s bored and wants a fight), they sink their own ship so they don’t have to fight the gauls. Eventually you see the pirate captain chained to an oar of a galley, as that’s all he has credit for. It is very funny to watch their downward slide 😀
The running gag is everybody comments on Cleopatra’s nose, “and a very pretty nose it is”. I wasn’t sure what I was missing, as it wasn’t funny or amusing. I’m wondering if the translators did a bad job OR, and I suspect this is more likely, the humor from creators just didn’t carry through. It wasn’t annoying, it just felt like a joke fallen flat. That kept getting repeated
Dogmatix is now fully part of the team and actually plays an instrumental part in getting them out of a trap in the pyramid. Obelix definitely has a rapport with him and it’s quite amusing to see the juxtaposition of big fat Obelix and little tiny Dogmatix.