RETRO REVIEW: Asterix and the Golden Sickle (1962)

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The Holiday Tradition Continues…

It’s time once again to dive into the wonderful world of Asterix – a holiday tradition at Major Spoilers! The druid conference is just around the corner, and all good druids will be there with their golden sickles.

ASTERIX AND THE GOLDEN SICKLE
Writer: Rene Goscinny
Artist: Albert Uderzo
Publisher: Dargaud
Translation: 1975 by Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge

Previously in Asterix: Those who are not schooled in Asterix, here’s the 411 – Asterix (sometimes referred to as The Adventures of Asterix) is a French series that began in 1959 and has continued for over 50 years. The title character, Asterix, and his friend Obelix, have adventures throughout Europe during the time of Roman expansion. To help combat the invaders, Asterix uses a magic potion whipped up by the village druid, Getafix, that gives him super strength.

Previous Asterix Reviews
(2011) Asterix in Britain
(2010) Asterix in Spain
(2009) Asterix the Gaul
(2009) Asterix and Obelix’s Birthday: The Golden Book
(2008) Asterix and Cleopatra

THE DRUID CONVENTION

In this second book, the druid convention is coming up, and in order to get in, Getafix must show his golden sickle. But there is a problem, the village druid just broke it by accident. The only place to get a new sickle in time is to head to Lutetia (present-day Paris), and obtain a new one from Metallurgix (get it?). Asterix and Obelix agree to help their friend out, and it is off to the city of lights!

When the duo arrive they discover Metallurgix shop is closed, and the sickle maker is nowhere to be found. On top of that, there appears to be a black market golden sickle ring running rampant in the city, and the bored prefect, Surplus Dairyprodus, doesn’t seem too concerned. It’s the mystery aspect of the tale that makes this a engaging read, and probably why I liked this volume as much as I did. Scene after scene, Asterix and Obelix attempt to track down the missing sickle maker, and each time, they wind back up in the Roman jail through no fault other than being Gauls. Piece by piece, it all comes together, and when the Prefect is found to be the master of the sickle black market (he was bored and had nothing better to do) the duo are able to find their friend and complete the mission.

Again, this is a fantastic read, and the puns, which annoyed me in the past (especially in Asterix in Britain), works perfectly here. There could be a number of reasons for this; this is only the second book in the series, and Goscinny could have still been finding his footing in the world of puns, or it could be that there really isn’t that much over the top humor to be found in France. Though the names continue to be in your face (one of the bandits is called Clovogarlix), it’s the slapstick moments that get the biggest smile from me. This is the first book in which Obelix gets to stretch his legs as a character, and every moment he is on the page is pure enjoyment.

ICONIC ART

There is a very distinct change in Uderzo’s style form the first volume to the second. In the first book, the characters are much more angular, while here, we get to see the characters in their more familiar rounded forms. While Asterix the Gaul is a good first start, I think most of the iconic character features (Obelix with his Menhir, Asterix’s feathered helmet, etc) stand out in this second volume.

In addition to the characters getting their iconic looks, Uderzo fills each panel with detail and crowds that make the dirty city of Lutetia feel like a metropolis. The moments and chase scenes that take place through the streets of the city are well played, and I really like how every bit-character has a distinct look, and is simply not a series of colored circles or duplicate representations of men and women.

BOTTOM LINE: GET IT IF YOU CAN

Asterix and Cleopatra will still go down as my favorite Asterix title, Asterix and the Golden Sickle is right up there as my number two Asterix book. The humor isn’t sickening, the art is wonderful, and the mystery of the missing Metallurgix actually drives the story forward instead of devolving into a series of lame jokes. If you can get your hands on Asterix and the Golden Sickle, do it. It’s a fun story and earns 4.5 out of 5 Stars.

Rating: ★★★★½

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