Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad (Hachette Australia) 2021, 48pp, RRP $29.99

The 39th Asterix book (or ‘album’), and the first published since the death of the series’ original co-creator Albert Uderzo (1927 – 2020), this tries hard to keep the wit of René Goscinny (1926 – 1977) and Uderzo’s beloved brainchild alive, but it tends to freeze over.

Now exclusively written by Jean-Yves Ferri, illustrated by Didier Conrad and translated into English by Adriana Hunter, this has Asterix, Obelix and druid Getafix arriving in the snowy land of Sarmatia, somewhere in the wilds of Barbaricum, to visit one of Getafix’s old friends, the shaman Fanciakuppov (say it slowly). They come complete with a keg of Getafix’s legendary magic potion, but it’s now solid ice, meaning that Asterix and others face the possibility of clashing with their enemies without the added super-strength, something that also happened in classic instalments like Asterix In Britain, where he accidentally introduces the English to tea. Oops, spoilers!

Back in Rome, geographer Cartographus has convinced Caesar (who’s still a vain fool here, and has learned nothing from his previous experiences with the Gauls) that an expedition to Barbaricum should strike out and capture the mythical griffin so that it can be displayed in the circus. This would therefore suggest that an un-potion-ed Asterix and the all-powerful Obelix are soon to face the usual contingent of reluctant legionnaires alone, but our chummy heroes are unexpectedly joined by the Sarmatia’s toughest warriors, which turn out to be a gaggle of sword-wielding, battle-hungry Amazons. You know: women.

This revelation is obviously another attempt for Asterix-es to move with the times, and it’s initially quite refreshing, given the series’ formerly sexist treatment of women (consider Asterix And The Secret Weapon, just for starters), but Ferri goes on, and on, and on, meaning that everything winds up feeling self-congratulatory.

The humour is also considerably less sophisticated: whereas classic Asterix adventures have rich seams of historical satire, here we have unsubtle jokes that compare the Sarmatian women to Amazon packages. Ha… ha?

Yes, it’s all a bit of a disappointment, but now that the series has changed hands, there’s no stopping the Asterix bandwagon, and the stories could perhaps keep on going for centuries, which might be a bit hard to believe, given that our diminutive hero looked like he was already getting on a bit when Part 1, Asterix The Gaul, was published way back in 1961.

The gaul, sorry, gall!!!

Dave Bradley

This title is available through the Hachette Australia website. Click HERE to purchase your copy.

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