Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad, Asterix and the Picts (London: Orion Children's Books, 2013), 48pp. Translated by Anthea Bell.
Asterix and the Picts is an encouraging, if somewhat uneven, contribution to the long-running Asterix comic book series. I grew up with this stuff, so I will always appreciate any new offering that appeals to my sense of nostalgia, and Picts has certainly encouraged me to dig out some of my old Asterix albums from my childhood and flick through them again. But looking at it dispassionately, this isn't a classic Asterix adventure. It certainly isn't a return to the highs of the Goscinny years, but it is on the same level as the later Uderzo-written albums and it doesn't feel like an imposter or a pretender, or a cash-in to continue the franchise. The Asterix books still have their heart and still have our affection, but they don't really have the laughs or the thrills that they used to. The plotting of Picts is uneven (there is an elixir MacGuffin which turns out to be a red herring) and the new characters largely unmemorable (MacAroon lacks presence and the Roman centurion and the treacherous chieftain both lack malevolence and guile). A lot of the jokes also seem to fall flat, and the plot at times seems like a pale hybrid imitation of Asterix in Britain and Asterix and the Great Divide. But as a nostalgia trip, it is worth a look. And, of course, the older fans like myself are not really the target audience any more. But I think if I had a kid and I gave him Asterix and the Picts to read, he wouldn't fall in love with the Gaul's adventures to anything like the same extent that I did reading Asterix and the Cauldron, Asterix in Britain and Asterix the Gladiator when I was younger.