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Asterix in Corsica is the twentieth book in the famous series by Goscinny and Uderzo and first saw the light of day in 1973. The story begins with the Gaulish village we know so well preparing for a big banquet to celebrate the anniversary of Vercingetorix's victory at the Battle of Gergovia. Some old friends who have helped the Gauls against the Romans over the years are arriving (leading to cameos by various characters from previous books) and a big part of the celebration will involve attacking the local Roman garrisons. The Roman garrisons of Laudanum and Aquarium are aware of this tradition and have deserted their fortified camps and gone on special manoeuvres to avoid a magic potion enhanced bashing. However, the Romans at Totorum have no option but to stay because they are holding Corsican leader Boneywasawarriorwayayix after he was exiled by Praetor Perfidius. After the Gauls lay waste to Totorum in the usual comic fashion, they free Boneywasawarriorwayayix and take him back to the village for some grub. Boneywasawarriorwayayix is eager to get back to Corsica after his exile and suggests Asterix and Obelix travel with him to see how the Corsicans deal with the Romans...
This is not one of the very best Asterix books and a solid entry in the series rather than a great one. One problem is that the story is rather vague and you are sometimes never quite sure what the plot or motivation of the characters is. Boneywasawarriorwayayix just suggests Asterix and Obelix visit Corsica for a while rather than them having a specific goal or some sort of quest. Once in Corsica we have all manner of vendettas and Corsican feuds, Roman bashing capers and jokes about the Corsicans having fiery tempers and needing a siesta all the time. Yes, 'these Corsicans are crazy!' as Obelix inevitably says in the story while tapping the side of his head with a finger. The book was very popular in French but didn't sell so well in English compared to other Asterix adventures - perhaps because of translation problems. Asterix in Corsica is said to lose more than your average Asterix book after the translation from French to English. It does have its moments though and the art by Uderzo is again superb.
The story certainly starts in pleasant fashion and it's great fun to see characters from previous books turn up at the village to participate in the celebrations for the anniversary of Vercingetorix's victory at the Battle of Gergovia. They include Huevos Y Bacon and his son Pepe from Asterix in Spain, Petitsuix from Asterix in Switzerland, Anticlimax, Dipsomaniax, McAnix, O'veroptimistix and Chief Mykingdomforanos from Asterix in Britain, Jellibabix of Lugdunum from Asterix and the Banquet, and Winesanspirix and his wife from Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield. It's nice to see all of these characters together and reminiscing with Asterix and Obelix about past adventures ('Remember when you were eating holes in cheese in that bank vault in Geneva?') and I enjoyed the panel where the wives get together and compare their methods for cooking. The Spanish wife explains she uses olive oil for everything while one of the British wives expresses the view that everything tastes much better boiled in water!
The Corsican intrigue doesn't inspire the best ever Asterix plot here and the Corsican characters in general aren't as much fun as characters from some of the other books Asterix and Obelix have met on their various travels. There are some great moments though. The Barbe Rouge inspired pirates have yet another funny cameo in the book when Boneywasawarriorwayayix arranges for them to take him, Asterix and Obelix to Corsica. The pirates, who have their ship sunk in virtually every Asterix book and live in permanent fear of the Gauls, don't know that Boneywasawarriorwayayix is bringing Asterix and Obelix with him and this leads to a very funny page. There are some wonderfully atmospheric night panels involving the pirates and their ship. The pirates, especially Captain Redbeard, play a slightly larger role in the story here which is good fun. There is an amusing series of panels in the story too when Boneywasawarriorwayayix introduces a mortified looking Asterix and Obelix to a very pungent and green looking Corsican cheese. 'Take a sniff of that friends! That aroma is the essence of Corsica!'
One of the most memorable pages here is simply a series of panels showing the tree tops of a lush Corsican forest with valleys and clouds in the background. Asterix, Obelix, and a number of Romans, are in the forest somewhere and a series of speech bubbles (and Romans occasionally flying into the air!) indicates what is going on below. There is some lovely art in the book with Uderzo's classic flame flickering cellars, adventures at sea, explosions, Roman interiors, and, perhaps best of all, the return to the village of Boneywasawarriorwayayix. There are superb details of stones and wooden beams in the wonderful houses illustrated here, all sloped and on a slight hill. People peer out of windows, some washing flutters in the breeze, and donkeys mill about in the street. One other thing about the book that is quite good fun is that instead of the usual map of Gaul on the first page there is one of Corsica instead with a list of the fortified Roman camps. Some of these names are rather silly (Geranium, Bunkum, Chewingum, Humdrum) and quite amusing.
Asterix in Corsica has some great stuff but on the whole it never feels quite as funny or interesting as some of the most inspired volumes in the series, failing to nab a seat at the Asterix top table. The story never feels as clever as the ones in books like Asterix in Switzerland and suffers from being rather vague - to the extent that you sometimes forget who is supposed to be who and what they are arguing about anyway. Asterix in Corsica has its moments and the art is wonderful at times but it falls short of the very best books in the series.