The first ten books of Asterix

The Ten Best Asterix Books from v1 – v10

I’m not good at rating books, but am I any good at ranking them?

Let’s take a look at the first ten volumes in the Asterix series and see if I can rank them from “least best” to best.

None are bad. There aren’t too many book series I can say that about.  Even the clunkiest volume of Asterix is filled with great moments.

This is a combination of personal and critical assessments.  I’m very pragmatic like that.

Please note: If you’re looking for a ranking of my ten favorite Asterix books out of all of them, I have that article here.

10. Asterix and the Banquet (v5)

The Romans build a crazy wall

It’s not a bad book, per se, but it’s a lot of little bits of humor that just don’t add up to much.

Asterix and Obelix run through the French countrwwyside gathering local foods to prepare a banquet for their local Roman oppressors.  There’s not much drama.  There’s not much story.

There are volumes where the story might seem too easy or cliched, but then Rene Goscinny has a great knack for adding something to it in the end to make it smarter and more creative.  This book lacks that extra twist.

The biggest highlight of the book is the introduction of Dogmatix to the world.

I also liked the wall at the beginning of the book. That’s not because of any great statement in the current political climate, but because that’s what Roman armies did.  They’d build ridiculous structures overnight with their large numbers, who were many times equally as good at being carpenters as soldiers.

A map of France with Asterix and Obelix's journey from Asterix and the Banquet

It’s weird that the book I went to the greatest effort to create a graphic for is the last on my list.  But I still like my map of France.

9. Asterix the Gaul (v1)

Asterix tries to surrender, but the Romans run away anyway

There’s nothing wrong with this book.  It actually does a great job in setting the series up.  It only ranks this low because it’s first and Goscinny and Uderzo were still finding their way.  It’s a little lighter than the second half of the run of these ten albums, and Uderzo is still playing with character designs.  Caesar is a completely different model at the end of the book from what he looks like at the beginning.

If someone new to Asterix were to ask me where to start, I’d probably tell them to read the first volume just to get the fundamentals.  You can skip around after that.  There’s no serious continuity in these books, except maybe for Getafix getting a sickle in the second volume to use directly at the Druid’s convention in the third volume. That’s as far as it goes.

8. Asterix and the Golden Sickle (v2)

Asterix and the Goths, where Obelix still finds Romans to punch

Asterix and Obelix visit Paris, get caught up in a criminal ring, and, of course, break out of jail for a second straight book.  There are a couple of Paris-specific gags. If they had gone full tilt on the Paris jokes, I might have rated this one higher.  But the series is still new.  It won’t be until volume 4 where Goscinny really starts to dive into making fun of other nations.

7. Asterix and the Goths (v3)

Getafix wins Druid of the Year

Getafix wins Druid of the Year, which brings up a lot of questions about the Magic Potion and Druid voting procedures.

I compare the Goths to the Normans a lot. They’re both cases of the Gauls coming up against foes who are super strong and fearsome as warriors.  So when I think about this book, I naturally compare it to the Normans.  This one ranks lower, despite having the great border crossing guard moment.

Even better is the fighting in the forest between Romans, Gauls, and Goths as they cross paths almost randomly.

You might sense a pattern starting there.  With the first four books in the series, I would contend that each was better than the last, up until you got to the disappointing “Banquet” book.  After that, it’s a little less of a straight line towards the tenth volume, though we do get there.

I almost rated this higher just for the page at the end that explains “The Asterixian Wars,” but that wasn’t enough to beat what the next book on the countdown has to offer.

6. Asterix the Gladiator (v4)
Asterix and Obelix fight gladiators next week

I almost ranked this book even higher on the list just for the bit on the ship when the rowers negotiate their contracts because they don’t want to fight. Cracks me up every time.

But this was also when I realized that the entire village is unduly cruel to poor Cacofonix, so that set it back.

The Asterix and Obelix hijinx in Rome are also a prescient echo of what Goscinny will perfect in “Asterix the Legionary,” where the two break down a military leader.  Here, it’s just a gladiator trainer they need to defeat.

This is the start of “These Romans are crazy!” and feels a bit like the first book to put together most of the facets of a good “Asterix” book in one volume.  Goscinny goes to town with the Italian references in this book.

5. Asterix in Britain (v8)

Roman soldiers break open barrels of local wine, looking for magic potion

The tea thing. I still can’t get over it. This one might have ranked a spot or two higher if it hadn’t been for the tea thing.

4. Asterix and the Normans (v9)

Obelix shares a Roman soldier with a Norman warrior.

I love the Normans. I love their naivete. I love how similar they are to the Gauls.  And I love what becomes of them at the end of this book. Be careful what you wish for…

The presence of the bratty nephew in this story should be a turn off of Wesley Crusher dimensions, but it still works for me because Goscinny scripts him so well. (Or, maybe, because Bell and Hockridge give him great dialogue.  Tough to tell.)

Uderzo sells every bit of this book with his acting chops.  I like the grand finale, particularly in the way Uderzo lays it out.

3. Asterix the Big Fight (v7)

The Druid Getafix loses his memory and laughs at the entire situation and all the people around him.

Pure sit-com craziness.  Not a terribly deep plot, but with a great ending and every gag milked out of the premise that Goscinny possibly could pull off. It also gets credit for directly addressing the problem with Getafix’s Magic Potion monopoly.

A lot of the humor comes from knowing what’s about to happen, even more than what does happen. This is a good one to watch.

2. Asterix and Cleopatra (v6)

Cleopatra has a beautiful nose, you know

It almost feels like this is where the series begins. It’s a perfect blend of geographic humor, running Asterix gags, and Julius Caesar.

It feels packed full of funny bits.  Even the stuff that might seem obvious today works well here.  For example, there’s a gag about the Sphinx losing its nose.  I’ve seen that gag a bunch of times, but Goscinny/Uderzo still get a laugh out of me on it.

The relationship between Caesar and Cleopatra in the book is, as in real life, a complicated and tricky thing.  Caesar is portrayed as both a lovestruck boy and the ruthless ruler that he was, though not without a sense of humor or honor.

Dogmatix makes a big save, Cleopatra makes a big entrance, and Obelix makes a big deal out of always being second. Good stuff.

And now, my favorite of the first ten volumes:

1. Asterix the Legionary (v10)

Asterix the Legionary gag straight out of a Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck short

This is the book where everything comes together for me. It’s hilarious. It’s a Marx Brothers movie on paper, as Obelix and Asterix join Caesar’s military forces and show the Centurions how they should be running the show. It’s a series of running gags, great joke construction, and gags that are both visual and verbal.

It even includes a trip overseas to Africa, where the duo accidentally provoke a battle that makes Caesar look good.

It combines some elements of Roman history, which I’ve become very fond of over the course of this series, with the best gags Goscinny could write and Uderzo could lay out.  It may not be the strongest or most complicated plot, but the humor more than makes up for that.

If the world was going to end in an hour and I had to pick one Asterix book to re-read, this would be the one.

That Was Not Easy

I wasn’t sure what I was going to come up with when I started this list.

I knew what the first and tenth books would be. Everything in the middle had to jockey for position.  It was fun to move things around as I picked favorites moments or characters from different books to try to justify my decision.

In the end, though, I like all of these books.  The difference from one position to the next is often paper thin, or just a matter of personal taste.  Your list is probably in a slightly different order. Maybe it’s in a completely different order.  I’m OK with that. There’s just a lot to love here.

This is an exercise to look back at these ten books one more time and to relive funny bits that I often had forgotten about already.

Mission Accomplished, By Toutatis!

Next Week

Chief Vitalstatistix has eaten too much! Obelix doesn't understand.

The Asterix Agenda returns with volume 11, “Asterix and the Chieftain’s Shield.”  This one will require some historical background, so get ready for a history lesson, too!

What do YOU think? (First time commenters' posts may be held for moderation.)

12 Comments

  1. Asterix the Legionary is definitely number 1 for me too. As a kid, I laughed and laughed about the Egyptian who joins the Roman army by accident.
    Although it has some of Uderzo’s best art, I do think that the Normans doesn’t work. The plot about conquering fear in order to learn how to fly is just too stupid, even for young readers.
    In your top 10, you give a lot of weight to Goscinny’s scripts but I wonder how you would rate them based on Uderzo’s art alone. I’d have thought that The Great Crossing and Corsica would shoot up the list.

    1. It’s tough to judge Uderzo’s art so early on as the character designs were still changing, but I think it would track nearly the same. It does feel like Goscinny found his stride as Uderzo was finding his. In these first ten volumes, things are pretty consistent. When we get to the last ten books by Uderzo, we’ll see a lot more variability. 😉

      There are moments in each book where Uderzo’s art stands out. For example, in “The Banquet” there’s a couple of town drawings I really loved. In “Legionary.” the storytelling is perfect and there’s some impressive crowd/war scenes near the end. In “The Normans,” he animates that kid like a professional Disney animator might.

      You’re right — there are a couple books coming up that I think will spotlight the art even more. We’ll see how those work out… I don’t know if I’ll revamp this list next to be the Top 10 of the First 20, or the Top 10 of the Next 10, or just take a nap, instead. 😉

      1. For Uderzon’s art, I find it quite easy. So far every book has looked better than the one before. I think we’re almost at the point where that evens out for a while. Then much later on (I’m thinking around Asterix and Son) Uderzo starts evolving some more. His art becomes a lot more loose/angular/dynamic (I’m not sure any of those are the right word). I wouldn’t say it gets better or worse at this point, but it noticeably changes.

        The new artist (forget his name) clearly is aping Uderzo’s art from before this change.

  2. I posted my top nine the other day, but here’s the full ten.

    From best to least best:
    Asterix in Britain 5/5
    Asterix and the Golden Sickle 4.5/5
    Asterix The Gaul 4.5/5
    Asteroid and Cleopatra 4.25/5
    Asterix and the Normans 4/5
    Asterix and the Chieftan’s Shield 4/5
    Asterix the Legionary 4/5
    Asterix and the Goths 3.5/5
    Asterix the Gladiator 3.5/5
    Asterix and the Banquet 3.5/5

    Very different from Augie’s order. Notably, I love Asterix in Britain, Asterix the Gaul and Asterix and the Golden Sickle, and I rate Asterix the Legionary a lot lower.

  3. Oh what fun. I’ve gone through my posts and tallied my scores, where there’s a tie I’ve made the very difficult decisions to split the tiles AND

    Asterix the Legionary 10/10
    Asterix and the Big Fight 9/10
    Asterix and the Normans 9/10
    Asteroid and Cleopatra 8.5/10
    Asterix the Gladiator 8.5/10
    Asterix and the Goths 8/10
    Asterix in Britain 8/10
    Asterix The Gaul 7/10
    Asterix and the Golden Sickle 6/10
    Asterix and the Banquet 6/10

    Well as you’d expect a completely different list to both Augie and Dan. Which I appreciate as it speaks to the variety of things to love about Asterix stories and the variance in scoring is a shift in what’s important to the particular reader. It also shows how subjective humour is possibly… who knows.

    What else can we learn, well the one thing we all agree on is poor old Asterix and the Banquet is a stinker, at least in terms of Asterix books as its bottom if the pile for all three of us! That said of course I’d have no issue recommending it as a great comic to anyone. Just speaks to how good these comics are!

    1. Just to be contrary, by nine year old daughter considers Asterix and the Banquet to be one of her favourites.

      1. Ha! just goes to show Asterix offers different things to different folks, the way all the best comics do!

  4. Arh damnit my post seems to have disappeared? Augie is there a posted hidden awaiting approval? I’ve had that before when I’ve subscribed to a comments section?

    1. What ive found recently on this post is that my comments weren’t showing on the webpage (even days after posting), but were showing in the WordPress app. I’m not sure if this is browser caching or what.

      1. Yeah I’m going browser caching as your comment didn’t pop up, even though I’ got the e-mail notification until I did a hard refresh… I’m remember next time!

        1. Good to know. Unfortunately I mainly use this site on my iPad where, as far as I can tell, I have to go into settings and clear my entire cache.