The Asterix sequence in American model – Redeemed Reader

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The now classic Asterix comic series has an American shine in a new edition.

Astrix omnibus # 1, 2 and 3 by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. Papercutz (American edition), 2020, 152 pages.

Reading level: Intermediate, 10-12 years

Recommended for: from 8 years

As early as 1959, a lively, pint-sized character with superhuman strength came onto the European comic market. This was before comics became graphic novels; otherwise the book long adventures of an approx. 50 BC Gaul would qualify as a graphic novel, albeit a very dubious one. The series was launched as a European response to an art form that evolved around American superheroes and bad guys. But Asterix was an unusual superhero: with his beefy mate Obelix (a menhir delivery man – check it out), he fought the ambitions of Julius Caesar, who had already conquered most of Gaul. The opening panel of Asterix the Gaul shows the legendary scene of the chief Vercingetorix, who throws his shield at Caesar's feet in a gesture of surrender. Caesar's reaction: "Ouch!"

Despite the passing of Vercingetorix (an actual historical character), the small village of Asterix and Obelix, with its traditional druids (Getafix) and bards (Cacaphonix), remains the last outpost of the Gallic resistance to Roman rule.

We discovered these books in our local library in the early 1980s after they had been translated into 111 languages. My children devoured them and I found them a likable companion to our Latin studies. This latest edition contains the latest translation – into American English! Although some of the Americanisms are somewhat irritating to someone familiar with the more literary British translations, the new edition could lure a whole new class of fans into the series.

As you can see from the names above, much of the humor depends on cruel word games, but also good, old-fashioned gags and clever setups. Asterix and Obelix travel through the well-known western world and the provinces of Asia and meet characters like Cleopatra, Cicero and Marcus Brutus. Readers will get an impression of ancient geography, Roman and barbaric culture, early imperial politics, and a bit of Latin. Most of the humor is accessible to middle school and younger people, but part of it is challenging enough for teenagers and adults.

Over thirty Asterix titles were released (and of poor quality afterwards) before Goscinni's death in 1977. The new editions combine three stories in three volumes. Volume 1 contains, for example, Asterix the Gaul, Asterix and the Golden Sickle as well as Asterix and the Goths. The size is a bit smaller than the originals, which means the pages aren't that flat, but kids who love comics don't care – and they learn a bit of history and culture too.

Overall rating: 3.75 (of 5)

  • Weltanschauung / moral value: 3.5
  • Artistic / literary value: 4.75

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