What? You thought I was done reviewing Asterix books? Never!
Hachette/Orion first published “Asterix on the Warpath” in 2015. It is a pop-up book.
Yes, it’s come to this: I’m reviewing a pop-up book.
Just look at this thing:
Right, it’s not that impressive, but check it out from this angle:
It’s obviously a very thick book, even though there’s only seven double page spreads in it.
The price tag is set at $30. This is, without a doubt, the most expensive comic book I ever bought, as measured by cost per page.
I didn’t buy it for the storytelling chops, though. You buy a book like this for the experience of opening it up and staring in awe and wonder.
Let’s be clear: This is not your father’s pop-up book. This is not the pop-up books you had as a kid, or the kind they sell as Hallmark cards. (Well, OK, that Shark Tank company makes some impressive cards…)
These pop-up pages are feats of engineering, and every page presents a different challenge for the engineer.
That person’s name is Jose Pons, by the way. He is credited as the “paper engineer” at the front of the book.
Just look at his work:
There are things popping out from every direction in this book, often on the same page.
A Quick Photography Note
In order to set these pop-ups up to look their best, I had to hold the pages down with heavy objects to get the biggest pop.
The nearest thing I had for that was a couple of “Bloom County” reprint hardcovers from IDW. So if you see something strange or red on the outside of the images in this review, that’s why.
Proper Care and Handling
I’ve been very careful with the book, being sure not to accidentally rip anything while trying to force it open or shut. I remember that always being a problem with pop-up books of my youth.
So far, it’s been good. As complicated as this book gets, it’s well-engineered to fold up and down without any extra pressure being necessary. The first time you close a page, you might wonder if it’s all going to fit back together, but magically it does. I haven’t had any problems yet with pieces getting tangled up or folding down in the wrong order.
The one trick is that you want to really lay the front and back cover flat against the table all the way to get the full pop up of the paper. It’s tempting to just open it far enough to see it, but you need to push it a little further past that to get the full height of the pop-ups. It’s something I needed to teach myself to get decent pictures of the book for this review.
In fact, there are a couple of pages that look best when you hold the book in both hands and open it past 180 degrees flat. Over-extend the edges to really make the tallest parts pop. The first pop-up spread (showing the village) is a good example of this. Parts of it lean forward towards the reader a bit until you pull it open that far.
A Variety of Pop-Ups
The thing that impressed me on top of all this is the variety of pop-ups that Jose Pons employs. Things aren’t all straight up and down. The speed with the pirates, for example, is canted at an angle. It bursts out of the page at you, with the lead waves extending out past the bottom of the page, and everything jumping out of the page at almost a 45 degree angle.
The page of the Romans hiding beneath their shields (seen above) is more perpendicular, but that makes sense for the scene. It’s a wall of shields with the soldiers underneath. Those shields should be parallel to the ground. Even then, you still get random soldiers sitting off at an angle, so everything isn’t perfectly perpendicular.
The final banquet scene has an impressive soaring back drop that jumps 8 or 9 inches off the page. The village huts feel enormous in that piece, neatly dwarfing the villagers sitting around the table in front of them. There’s even a full moon at the tippy top of that one.
The biggest explosion, though, is the scene set in the Village with all the men fighting. That’s a big burst of pop-ups that no single picture can do justice. It jumps out over 10 inches from the base of the book, with lots of characters exploding from a central vanishing point.
And then, just off to the side is a quaint shot of Asterix and Getafix having a discussion. I love the pop-up word balloons in this book. They’re unexpected and fun.
The “Story” of “Asterix on the Warpath”
“Asterix on the Warpath” is not a story.
It’s more a quick tour through Asterix’s village, showing you a day in the life of everyone’s favorite Gauls. You get a look at one of the fine fish-throwing kerfuffles, a spread of Roman soldiers trying their best to win a fight, a scene on the boat at sea with everyone’s favorite pirates, and finally a banquet to end the book.
The captions are there to explain what you’re seeing, like something you might hear a narrator say in a travel documentary. There are even a few word balloons in the pop-ups here and there.
There’s no plot. This is just an excuse for some spectacular pop-ups with an Asterix theme.
I’m OK with that. Like I said, this book is an experience, not a storytelling device.
Where Does the Art Come From?
The art is ripped from the books, I’m sure. I recognized a few panels, though I can’t run a list for you now of where they all came from.
I did check every book to see where that final banquet came from, but I didn’t see it. Either Uderzo’s studios drew one in his style — and they’re VERY good ad replicating his style — or they pieced together parts from all different banquets to make this scene. Given the variety of angles Uderzo drew that final scene from, though, the pickings would have been slim.
Here’s one I saw right away. It’s a panel from near the end of “Asterix and the Chieftain’s Shield.” The book from before the 2004 remastering printed very poorly. The colors got sucked right out of the book, but I recognized that pose and that gesture. Thankfully, they used better colors — probably from the remastered edition — in the pop-up book.
Well, it’s a little pricey for what it is, to be honest. If you’re a huge Asterix fan, though, it is a wonder to behold. Go ahead and show it to the kids, but don’t let them actually touch the thing…
Otherwise, I’d recommend taking that same money and buying two or three Asterix books instead. I have a Top 10 Asterix Books I can point you towards for recommendations.
And, no, I won’t be reviewing the Asterix coloring book next. Even I have my limits.
— 2019.038 —
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