So for anyone who doesn't know the Asterix story - here is a potted history. In 1959 writer Rene Goscinny and illustrator Albert Uderzo published the first comic book to feature the adventures of Asterix the Gaul. Over the next 53 years, there would be more than thirty books in the franchise, and for a while - in the sixties and seventies - the books were as close to perfect as a comic book ever could be. The drawings were exquisite, the stories entertaining, and the humour gentle. These years saw titles like 'Asterix and Cleopatra', 'Asterix the Legionary,' and 'Asterix in Britain,' - books that have become essential classics in the genre.
But in 1977 tragedy struck. Goscinny died, and Uderzo decided, singlehandedly, to continue with the books, both writing and drawing them. It was a fiasco. The series began a grim spiral from brilliance to mediocrity and onwards to utter awfulness, reaching a nadir with titles like 'Asterix and the Actress' and 'Asterix and Obelix All at Sea.'
All seemed lost for Asterix. To make matters worse, a dreadful row had broken out between Uderzo, the publishers, and the family of Rene Goscinny. But in 2011 all parties came to an agreement and a new Asterix title was commissioned - the first with a new writer and illustrator. The result is 'Asterix and the Picts,' drawn by Conrad Didier and written by Jean Yves Ferri. And it is a delight. Almost. Asterix and Obelix travel to Scotland to save the true love of a Scottish chieftan. National stereotypes are mercilessly lampooned, Nessie makes an appearance (of course), Romans are thumped, and it all ends with a banquet beneath the stars. The art work is right back to early Uderzo standards (these too had slipped over the decades). It isn't a Five Star book - some of the humour is still a little clumsy, and the story is rather forced. But it has all the hallmarks of a real Asterix book. I can't wait for the next one.