Asterix Omnibus 3 collects together books seven, eight and nine [Asterix and the Big Fight, Asterix in Britain and Asterix and the Normans] of Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's Gaulishly good comic series.
In Asterix and the Big Fight Roman Centurion Nebulus Nimbus, tired of being constantly humiliated by his inability to conquer the one remaining independent tribe of Gauls, heeds the advice of Felonius Caucus and instigates the eponymous Big Fight. Not that the Romans will be placing themselves in the danger zone. The Big Fight is in fact an ancient Gaulish tradition whereby the chief of one tribe challenges a rival chief to single combat, with the winner assuming leadership over both tribes. Felonius Caucus convinces proud Gallo-Roman Chief Cassius Ceramix of Linoleum to challenge Chief Vitalstatistix and the Romans set about nobbling the druid Getafix so that his magic potion cannot influence the outcome of the fight. With a little help from Obelix and one of his menhirs, they might just succeed.
Although Asterix and the Big Fight might be one of the most straightforward stories when it comes to plot, it is still one of the best Asterix albums. Despite the Big Fight being the central event of the story, there is perhaps less action involved than might be expected. A great deal of the story involves humorous character-driven antics and there are plenty of classic puns from Asterix himself. Even when the jokes are bad, at least there's some witty commentary from the characters confirming as much. The menhir-related hijinks are fine examples of slapstick humour, while the druids and their antics with the various potions provide one of the best moments in the book. It's also nice to see Chief Vitalstatistix step down off his shield and play his own part in the heroic escapades.
In Asterix in Britain Julius Caesar has finally succeeded in conquering Britain, not least because Cassivelaunos and the British soldiers stop fighting every so often to drink hot water with a drop of milk and also refuse to fight on weekends. One brave village does still hold out against the forces of Rome and so villager [and first cousin once removed of Asterix] Anticlimax is dispatched to Gaul to seek the help of the druid Getafix. Armed with a barrel of Getafix's potion and accompanied by Asterix and Obelix, Anticlimax must fight his way back to Britain and help the rebel cause.
Goscinny and Uderzo's take on the British here is excellent. The jokes and commentary on British culture [appreciation of warm beer, love of tea, interesting cuisine, and maintaining a stiff upper lip] come thick and fast, but it's all very friendly and tongue-in-cheek. There are some amusing culture clash issues between the Gauls and their British counterparts but, ultimately, they all band together to fight the Roman menace. Asterix is on fine fighting form as he aims to help Anticlimax defend his village, while Obelix bumbles about in an endearing fashion and, often by circuitous means, helps to save the day.
Asterix and the Normans marks a return to more familiar, Gaulish territory. Chief Vitalstatistix agrees to help his brother, Doublehelix of Lutetia, by acting as a mentor to his wayward teenage son Justforkix. Justforkix is bored by village life until, that is, a ship of Normans (or Vikings as they are more commonly known) arrives. The Normans wish to further their understanding of the concept of fear and, it turns out, Justforkix is the perfect man to teach them.
While Asterix and the Normans isn't exactly vintage Asterix, it is still a good story. Asterix and Obelix have to share their hero duties with Justforkix, whose most heroic quality is that he is scared of nearly everything. He is certainly a good dancer though and he comes through for the Gauls in the end. A number of supporting characters from the series [including Dogmatix and Fulliautomatix the blacksmith] are fleshed out more than they have been previously and so develop their own peculiar traits that will become familiar in later books. Even Cacofonix gets his moment to shine.
Asterix Omnibus 3 is a great collectors' hardback edition. As well as offering excellent translations of the three collected stories, it's particularly nice that the omnibus is the same size as the original albums. Often, such as in the case of Tintin, when these album style comics are collected into omnibuses they are published in a smaller format, which makes it hard to read densely packed speech bubbles and to see the detail of the illustrations. Asterix Omnibus 3 is highly recommended for collectors but also for those just discovering Asterix who wish to read a particularly fine edition.