Fifty years of Asterix and Obelix is certainly something to celebrate, and in the tiny Gaul town, the celebration is just getting started.
One of the Legion of Spoilerites warned me before I read this book that it wasnâ€™t a typical Asterix and Obelix adventure, and after reading the 34th volume for myself, I have to agree.Â Instead of a drawn out story, Goscinny and Uderzo have broken the story into a series of short comedic vignettes, with some really working, and others falling flat.
Since the characters have been around for 50 years, the first skit shows what the Gaul town and its inhabitants would look like that many years down the road.Â Thereâ€™s some nice humor here, as we see what might have been, or what could be if the characters were allowed to age naturally, similar to what Gasoline Alley did during its run.Â For the heroes of the story, time has not treated them well, and poor Obelix is pretty down that he has nothing to do. At this point, one of the creators inserts himself into the story, and after a quick pop to the face, changes the story to put everything right.Â I wonder what Batman would do if Grant Morrison showed up in one of his stories?
Another nice touch is that readers get to see cameo appearances by many, if not all of the characters that Asterix and Obelix have encountered in their many adventures.Â I like this bit a great deal, even if it feels like a bit one would see during the 100th episode of a television series.Â Thereâ€™s also a nice bit with Julius Caesar and Cleopatra that closes the volume, as I always liked how Cleopatra came off in the original story.
The art is nice, and for someone who is just starting into the complete Asterix adventures, seeing how the art style has changed over years is a great way to see how far the art style has changed.
Other than that, Iâ€™m not impressed with the other bits of the book.Â The skits and gags seem more forced than I was expecting – the tour of the Asterix museum, for example,Â seemed to be the most boring portion of the book.Â It was there to show off art skills, which as I already mentioned, is nice, but not really part of a story.Â That section might have worked better had they not tried to wrap a story around it, but simply had a gallery section in the book.
And don’t get me started on the fashion show with Obelix wearing clothing from different periods of history.
I know there are probably a lot of Europeans who would disagree, and that is fine, but having only two previous Asterix books under my belt before this one, caused me to mark this one as the least favorite Asterix book to date.Â Iâ€™m hoping going back into the archive and reading more of the earlier books will set me back on the right track.
50 years ia a really big deal, and Iâ€™m glad the characters have been embraced the way they have around the world.Â There is something special in the Asterix and Obelix tales, but unfortunately, The Birthday volume is not one of them.Â I’ve certainly read worse books, and this one doesn’t even come close to being down at that level.Â Instead, I’m giving this book 3 out of 5 Stars.Â It’s worth a read if you love the characters, but not something you’ll be picking up on a yearly basis for a quick read.