This book is important to me. I first read Asterix in the early seventies, and it matters to me. In the place in the heart where some people keep Star Trek or Dr Who, as a formative experience that always matters to them, I have Asterix. In the eighties, there was a full set of reprints and I bought the lot. Since then, I have bought the books as they slowly emerged, and grieved their decline. That place in my heart grew cold and dusty, mirroring the disillusionment of middle age.
When I saw that a new artist and writer were taking on the burden of expectations, I dared not hope. When it was time to order, I almost didn’t, sure that it would be a waste. I was wrong there.
Asterix and the Picts is not perfect, but it’s good. Conrad’s artwork is simple to describe, it’s just like late-period Uderzo, well-executed. My personal preference is for the tighter, sparser style of the earlier books, but that is a detail. This is fine.
The writing was always going to be the challenge. The loss of Goscinny changed the series: these books do not have many words, but Goscinny used them with a subtlety that Uderzo working by himself never matched. A new writer had a huge task. Ferri has not matched Goscinny’s best work, but he has outdone Uderzo’s writing, and can improve. His plot is a little rushed, missing the chance for some jokes (a page on hunting the wild Haggis could have been wonderful). This seems to me because too much space is spent performing the established routines in the Gaulish village, but that’s probably necessary to reassure fans that this is the world they know.
It’s not perfect. But it’s good. They can do better. There are stirrings of spring in my heart.