Thursday, November 13, 2014
Reader's Diary #1088- Albert Uderzo, translated by Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge: Asterix and the Black Gold
Still, it's never too late to join the crowd, I suppose. I managed to fill my Tintin void a few years back and am finally managing to get an Asterix title under my belt.
In Asterix and the Black Gold, Asterix and his friend Obelix head off to the middle East to bring back some oil. Oil, it seems, while undervalued by most at the time, is that essential ingredient in a magic potion that gives Asterix and his fellow Gauls the strength they need to keep the Roman army at bay.
Not having any experience with Asterix before, most of this stuff was new to me. I did not know Asterix was a Gaul, nor that the Gauls in this series had superhuman strength. I quite enjoyed the historical settings and characters. They're a bit slow in getting to the Middle East, so perhaps some more familiar readers might grow impatient waiting for that particular setting to appear, but for me the various settings along the way were all interesting.
The story itself was a bit boring. There's a Roman spy tagging along with Asterix and Obelix, but the peril-overcome peril-peril-overcome peril pattern grew tiresome when really, nothing amounted to much of a challenge. There's also a LOT of puns. I never thought I'd say it, but too many puns! After a while they stopped being amusing and just became distracting. As for the characters, I found them sort of flat. Asterix, who I'd assumed would be the main character didn't stand out at all. In fact, there didn't seem to be any protagonist. The spy, perhaps?
I did, however, enjoy the artwork. The colours were bright and cheerful, reminding me of old Smurfs episodes. The characters themselves are drawn in a humorous, classic Looney Tunes style, especially when occasional characters had far more realistic faces, like when celebrities appeared on Merrie Melodies.
I'm unlikely to read another Asterix comic any time soon, but I can at least appreciate the appeal, especially if someone grew up reading them.