It has become an annual tradition at Major Spoilers that after the feast of the bird, the downing of the stuffing, and the packing away of the pumpkin pie, it is time to kick back, relax and re-read a classic Asterix comic from days gone by. This year, we look at Asterix the Gladiator, the book we SHOULD have shared with you last year.
Previously in Asterix: Asterix took on the Goths after they captured Getafix for his magical potion. Good times, and hilarity followed as is often the case with our heroes. You can read the full retro-review, right here!
THE PROBLEM WITH BARDS
Before returning to Rome, Prefect Odius Asparagus wants to capture one of the Gauls to present to Caesar as a gift. While the soldiers know bringing one of the regulars in will be a problem, they decide it is far easier to subdue Cacofonix, the bard – even easier with parsley stuffed in their ears to avoid his singing. The Prefect loads Cacofonix on a galley destined for Rome before Asterix and the rest of the Gauls have time to act. Even though they are somewhat relieved that they won’t have to hear Cacofonix sing, capturing one of their own is a great insult, causing Vitalstatistix to send Asterix and Obelix to Rome to free their comrade.
As is often the case in these stories, Asterix and Obelix do make it to Rome where their innocence of the world makes for great laughs as they try to figure out the local customs, see the sites, and end up becoming gladiators in the arena – the very arena where Cacofonix is scheduled to be fed to the lions. Since the Gauls have superhuman strength, their training sessions become more slapstick comedies than blood and guts sequences, which is probably a good thing considering this is an all ages book.
On the day of the event, Cocofonix’s singing drives the lions away, and the the gladiators refuse to fight as they’ve learned a new playground game taught to them by Asterix. In short the Gauls have made a mockery of the games, which infuriates Caesar, even thought the crowds love what they’ve seen. As a show of his greatness, Caesar allows the Gauls to return home, and even has the gladiator trainer Caius Fatuous go with them.
Once again, Goscinny amuses the reader with his play on words, and even though readers are given a glimpse at historical ways of life, the history lesson becomes a laugh a page in the writer’s hand. Doctor Who was originally a way to teach history to kids, but it became something completely different. Likewise, the historical elements of this book can (and should) be taken with a grain of salt, but I was laughing so hard throughout to care what was fact and what was a funny observation.
While Asterix the Gladiator is filled with fantastic art, there are a couple of times when slaves are depicted in a way that is culturally insensitive. It may have been okay back in the day, but if you are someone who finds these depictions too much to bear, it is probably best to stay away. Beyond that, the best parts of this book happen in Rome. Uderzo brings the city to life in every minute detail. From the bricks that make up the building, to the crowded market, to the Egyptian drawing graffiti on the wall, you will get the most enjoyment by just looking at the pictures again and again.
BOTTOM LINE: ONE OF THE BEST
- THE ART IS SO WONDERFUL
- Brutus gets the best moments
- Love Caesar and the way he deals with the troublesome Gauls
- Still no Dogmatix
- Some gags are repeated a bit too often
At the end of the day, what is there not to love about Asterix? Certainly the puns can grate a little hard at times, but it is all in good fun. The art is fantastic, and the only thing that would make the Asterix series that much better is if it readily available via comiXology, so everyone could grab this book and read it right now. Grab it through your local book store or library or buy it through the Major Spoilers Amazon link, but buy this book and enjoy the adventures again and again.
Previous Asterix Reviews
(2013) Asterix and the Goths
(2012) Asterix and the Golden Sickle
(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