Asterix: The Legionary
August 8, 2017
The story of how 5-Hour energy drinks were the true downfall of the Roman Empire.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Hey, have I mentioned lately that the majority of my knowledge of comics focuses on American superhero material? Because the majority of my knowledge of comics focuses on American superhero material.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of the manga "Delicious In Dungeon #1")
Linkara (v/o): As always, I must remind people that it's not that I think non-superhero stuff is bad, just that I don't care for a lot of it. It doesn't interest me. That is not a judgment on the quality of non-American superhero stuff, it's just my own personal preferences.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl")
Linkara (v/o): Just like how I had that Patreon-sponsored review of "Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl", I can recognize the quality and good parts of something while admitting that I just shrug it off after I'm done and go back to the stuff I'm obsessively a fan of.
Linkara: I bring all this up because a lot of people have requested I do something Asterix-related for as long as this show. And you might be disappointed that I don't have the same perspective and critiques of it that a fan might have.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of the French comic "Asterix the Gaul")
Linkara (v/o): For those unfamiliar, "Asterix", or "The Adventures of Asterix", is a long-running comedic series of French comics about a village of Gauls opposing the Romans.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Doctor Who)
The Eleventh Doctor: Never underestimate a kilt.
(Cut back to the cover of "Asterix the Gladiator")
Linkara (v/o): The title character, along with his buddy Obelix possess a magic potion that can temporarily grant them superhuman strength. The series has been running since 1959 and, like last year's review of "Biggles and the Menace from Space"...
(Cut to a shot of the poster for the live-action movie Asterix & Obelix: Au service de Sa Majesté)
Linkara (v/o): ...has grown into a large franchise, including films, games and even a friggin' theme park.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "Action Comics #579")
Linkara (v/o): Hell, the series has apparently been so popular and influential that "Action Comics #579" pays homage to "Asterix" by having Superman and Jimmy Olsen travel back in time and meeting a group of Gauls resembling the characters.
Linkara: The reason they travel back in time is because Jimmy Olsen accidentally destroys a historical artifact and (shrugs) figures they can just replace it with the one from the past! Jimmy Olsen cares not the space-time continuum.
(Cut to a shot of the cover for "Asterix and the Falling Sky")
Linkara (v/o): Many people wondered why I'm covering this one, a classic published in 1967, rather than "Asterix and the Falling Sky", from 2005, which is apparently more universally reviled. Honestly, the Patron initially requested that, but remember, I know nothing about this series, so if the problems with it are based around knowledge and an intimate understanding of the franchise, I'm not gonna be complaining about the same things you guys might. We agree that it'd be better to showcase the good stuff before I try to cover the bad.
Linkara: That way, I can really piss everyone off when I end up not getting why it's terrible! In the meantime, though, let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Asterix: The Legionary" and see why this series is so beloved.
(AT4W title theme plays; title cards has the theme from Astérix et Obélix contre César playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): The cover is... confusing, but maybe that's only to me. We see Asterix and Obelix walking away from two Roman soldiers while wearing some legion uniforms themselves, armed with spears and supplies. And the Roman soldiers are crying, with one slumping onto the other's shoulder and the other yelling and pointing at the ground in front of him. And I don't get it. Why are they upset? They really want Asterix to kneel before Zod?
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): To get us up to speed, there's a two-page introduction, first with a map and then with a page showing off the characters.
Narration: The year is 50 BC.
Linkara: (narrator voice) Do you know where your children are? That's right, they haven't been born yet.
Narration: Gaul is entirely occupied by the Romans. Well, not entirely...
Linkara: (narrator voice) There's this one area owned by people calling themselves the Goths, but I don't think we have to worry about them.
Narration: One small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the invaders. And life is not easy for the Roman Legionaries who garrison the fortified camps of Totorum, Aquarium, Laudanum and Compendium...
Linkara: (narrator voice) But hey, the rent is cheap and everything is open on Sunday.
Linkara (v/o): We open just outside the village, where Asterix and Obelix are enjoying the day in their respective cosplays: Asterix as Thor and Obelix as Pippi Longstocking. Actually, they're heading in for a boar hunt when the two spot a hot woman heading back to the village, causing Obelix to crane his head around to look at her... and run right into a tree, hitting it with enough force to knock it over. As it happens, inside of the tree was Getafix, the village druid, who is naturally upset about this.
Getafix: Enjoying yourself, Obelix, pushing trees over while I'm up in them cutting mistletoe?
Linkara: (as Getafix) Dammit, man! I was going to use that mistletoe to make out with the woman you were ogling!
Obelix: Well... er... Well, it's an untidy sort of forest anyway. Trees all over the place!
Linkara: Obelix would go on to fund a Minotaur's efforts to destroy a forest owned by magical, talking deer.
Linkara (v/o): Also, let's face it: your name is Getafix. We know you were secretly harvesting that mistletoe to make into China Cat. After the hunt, the two return to cook up the wild boar for a meal, but Obelix finds himself once again distracted by the hot lady. After they cook, Obelix finds that he can't finish his meal, sighing repeatedly until he reaches the "deepest sigh".
Linkara: Not many sighs contained within them, philosophical musings on the nature of existence, but (holds up index finger) this sigh was that deep.
Linkara (v/o): Asterix, worried about Obelix, goes to Getafix to seek help.
Asterix: Obelix won't eat up his boar. He says he feel hungry!
Getafix: Did he have anything else first?
Asterix: Just two boars.
Getafix: Two boars... That hardly counts. Better have a look at him!
Linkara: You'd think that this was genuine concern, but in reality, they're just fattening him up to eat him.
Linkara (v/o): On the way over, they spot the hot lady again, with Obelix following behind.
Asterix: Where are you going, Obelix?
Obelix: Eh? Me? I'm delivering menhirs!
Asterix: Menhirs? But you haven't got any menhirs!
Linkara (v/o): A menhir, and I'm sure I'm pronouncing that wrong, in case you didn't know, is a tall, upright stone.
Linkara: So it turns out Stonehenge's true purpose was a singles bar.
Linkara (v/o): Getafix calls the hot lady over. She goes by the name Panacea.
Asterix: Panacea! You're Soporifix's daughter... the one who went to study at Condatum... You have changed!
Linkara: (as Asterix) Didn't you used to be taller?
Panacea: I've been at Condatum for two years. When I was away I was just a little girl with my hair in pigtails.
Linkara: (as Panacea) Then I hit that time warp, and now I'm 24. That was weird.
Linkara (v/o): Asterix introduces her to Obelix, but of course, he's too dumbfounded to say anything. Also, I just noticed: what the hell is up with Obelix's clothes? It's like he's wearing a pair of striped pajama bottoms up to his chest, with a wrestling belt wrapped around it. After saying farewell to Panacea, the other two laugh, realizing that Obelix has fallen in love with her. Asterix suggests he go and see her... and in the process, accidentally knocks over a house and a tree. The person inside proclaims...
Tree dweller: BUT I WASN'T EVEN SINGING!
Linkara: Yeah, but you need to be reminded sometimes. Karaoke is the tool of the Romans and we don't tolerate that kind of crap around here!
Linkara (v/o): Asterix recommends Obelix get her a present. He figures he knows just the thing: a rock here.
Asterix: YOU'RE NEVER GOING TO GIVE HER THAT??
Obelix: Why not? It's the very best I've got in stock!
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Futurama)
Prof. Farnsworth: (holding up something) It's a suppository.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): He asks what he should give her then.
Asterix: You want to give her something delicate, poetic...
Linkara: You know, a bigger rock.
Linkara (v/o): Instead, he suggests he go pick some flowers for her, which Obelix happily dashes off to do. Inside the forest, Obelix encounters a group of Roman soldiers, who try to hide from him – right on top of a flower patch.
Obelix: Aren't you ashamed of yourselves, treading on my pretty blue flowers?
Roman soldier: We're terribly sorry... We didn't know we had to keep off the...
Linkara (v/o): Aaaand he backhands the Roman so hard, he goes flying up into the tree. Afterwards, he deals with the other Legion members the same way and gathers his bouquet.
Obelix: The trouble with you Romans is, you aren't delicate or poetic...
Linkara: Hmm, I don't know. I hear Caligula enjoyed a good poetry slam.
Linkara (v/o): Returning to the village, Obelix and Asterix bring the flowers to her [Panacea]. She's quite impressed by them, and Obelix continues to be smitten and tongue-tied, but they're soon interrupted.
Asterix: Hullo! That's Postaldistrix the Postman!
Linkara: Boy, would this guy's parents have been embarrassed if it turns out this guy went into basket weaving or something as a profession.
Linkara (v/o): The mailman brings her a slate.
Letter: "I've just got time to carve a word. The Romans made me join the Legion. We're off to Africa. Farewell for ever."
Linkara (v/o): Panacea informs than that this guy, Tragicomix, is her fiance.
Linkara: (speaking on behalf of letter) "P.S., the ring was nonrefundable."
Linkara (v/o): Upon learning that Panacea has a fiance, Obelix's heart shatters, but being a decent person, he offers to find Tragicomix and bring him home safely, which Asterix agrees to do as well. Obelix puts up a brave face about this as they walk away, but out of earshot of Panacea, he collapses in Asterix's arms and cries about how unhappy he is. Geez, good thing Asterix seems to have enhanced strength, too, given how we've seen Obelix uproot trees by bumping into them. I would have expected falling over like this would have crushed Asterix to death! They go to see the chief of the tribe, named Vitalstatistix.
Linkara: (annoyed) Well, now these guys' parents were just being dicks!
Linkara (v/o): They ask why the Romans would be recruiting Gauls, and he explains that Julius Caesar's campaign in Africa against Romans who support the rival Pompey is faltering. Caesar is besieged in Ruspina and is taking anyone they can to help, even if they have to force people to join. Asterix hopes to intercept Tragicomix before he leaves for Africa, and preparations for the journey are made.
Getafix: Here's some magic potion for you, Asterix.
Linkara: Yes, thank you, Getafix, but I have enough booze already.
Linkara (v/o): Arriving in Condatum, they seek out a Roman legionary so they can find their headquarters. Aaaand Obelix finds one and beats the crap out of them.
Asterix: We only needed to stop them!
Obelix: Well, we have stopped them!
Linkara: I'm beginning to think Obelix has a lot of repressed anger.
Linkara (v/o): They get the location and head there. Not wanting to get into another fight, Asterix tells Obelix to hold back while he asks the guard about some information. Unfortunately, the guard is a dick and just says to get in line, so Asterix, losing his temper, biffs him into the sky.
Obelix: Honestly, I don't see any difference between Asterix's politeness and mine!
Linkara: Well, mainly, you have to ask them before you punch them. There is a procedure to this, dude.
Linkara (v/o): Asterix tries to be polite, but runs straight into Roman bureaucracy. Each department he goes to sends him off to another section before it shifts him right back to where he started. And he beats the crap out of the lazy Centurion there.
Asterix: ARE YOU GOING TO TELL ME WHERE TRAGICOMIX IS OR AREN'T YOU?
(Cut to a clip of an episode of The Simpsons, showing a bunch of schoolkids all looking shocked as Homer Simpson beats up Estonian Dwarf)
Kid: (crying) Stop! Stop, he's already dead!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): The other guy in the information section is slightly more helpful, looking through his tablets to try to find him.
Information Section Centurion: Tragicomix... with a "T", as in Timeo Danaos et Dona Ferentes?
Linkara: (as Asterix) No, "T", as in "Did you see me turn that guy's face into jelly?!" That will be the only gift you get if you don't find him!
Linkara (v/o): Unfortunately, according to the records, Tragicomix has already left for a ship in Massilia to join the reinforcements in Africa. Asterix heads back to Obelix and explains the situation. He figures that the only way now to catch up to him is to join the army, which Obelix agrees to. Once inside, we hear the names and nationalities of some of the others joining up.
Draftee 1: Neveratalos, Greek...
Draftee 2: Selectivemploymentax, British...
Linkara: Some people name their kids after heroic, inspiring figures in their lives; others name them after taxes.
Linkara (v/o): There are also two Goths and an Egyptian who speaks only in hieroglyphs, who thinks the recruiting office is an inn. He goes by the name of Ptenisnet.
Linkara: This one's parents weren't assholes, just carrying on the family lineage. His father was named Basketball Hoop.
Linkara (v/o): So after some comedic bits involving the recruits, including one Goth getting rejected because he's too skinny to be a Centurion, translation difficulties amongst them, and the pay rate, the poor Centurion in charge of them hands them off to his superior, openly weeping into his chest about how difficult they've been. I love this. It's like if R. Lee Emery kept yelling at everybody in a war movie, but everybody just ignored him, so he had a breakdown. The superior has much the same luck, with Asterix just trying to get him to hurry things along so they can get to Africa. They're called away for dinner, and the legionary rations are not impressive to the recruits.
Superior: You'll be getting it every day, corn, bacon, and cheese, all cooked together to save time!
Linkara: Who knew the Romans invented Denny's?
Linkara (v/o): In fact, the only recruit who's into it is Selectivemploymentax, but this is a French comic, after all; they need to get some digs into the British. Our heroes complain to the cook, who yells at them to leave... and Obelix hits the cook so hard, he falls into his own stew pot. Naturally, after that and the threat of making return visits, the cook acquiesces.
Linkara: Man, screw letting these guys defend their city. Just keep them around for two weeks, and they'll be running the empire at this rate.
Linkara (v/o): Next up for training is throwing spears, which Obelix happily does... right through the test dummy and back into the cookhouse.
Cook: All right, all right, all right! Just give me time to cook the boars, will you?
Linkara: Well, sorry, dude, but that was kinda your own fault. Why the hell did you leave the door open out into that range where people are throwing weapons?!
Linkara (v/o): After their commander gets another smack from Obelix during a mock fight, the Centurions hope they'll finally break the trainees through a forced march at dawn while carrying sacks of rocks. However, our heroes are up bright and early and happy to do it. The other trainees are not so enthusiastic, and the commander, who goes by the name Dubious Status...
Linkara: Look, just because you think your wife cheated on you doesn't mean you should take it out on the kid!
Linkara (v/o): ...thinks that he's won. However, Asterix and Obelix are in a rush, happily taking all the sacks of rocks so they can hurry on with training and get to Africa. Dubious Status breaks down upon returning to HQ, but fortunately, his partner says training is over, and they're heading off to Massilia.
Linkara: Ah, yes, two days worth of training. That's what made the Roman Empire so vast and powerful.
Linkara (v/o): And so the next day, they head on out. The Centurions try to get them to stop for a break, where even the less powerful trainees are are happy to keep marching, while their leaders are exhausted. They make camp for the night, and in the morning, everyone but the two Centurions have already departed, even switching into their civilian garb just because it's easier to move around in.
Obelix: ...and more fetching!
Linkara: Obelix, the fashion expert.
Linkara (v/o): They arrive at Massilia and almost immediately head for the ship, the crew getting to work on the oars. And of course, everybody is just happily rowing away at it. The ship captain thinks he'll knock some respect out of them by making them go faster... except Asterix already instructed the drummer to increase his pace as fast as he can. A pirate ship spots them and... Geez, that thing is a bit grabby, isn't it? Erm, anything, the pirate ship thinks they can take the Romans. I'm guessing the pirates are from a previous volume, since when the Romans turned to attack, the pirates realize that Asterix and Obelix are aboard, who of course swing over, and we're treated to what becomes of the pirates, stranded on a broken piece of debris from their sunken ship. After a few more days, they reach the African coast and disembark quickly, arriving at Caesar's camp. The Centurion reports his forces to the camp commander... but all the members of the legion have already left, with Asterix and Obelix beginning their search, the Greek playing dice with some men, and the rest going for beer.
Linkara: The sun never sets on the Roman Empre, so happy hour has been extended!
Linkara (v/o): As Caesar makes his plans in his tent, the members of the legion keep busting in, looking for their respective pastimes. He keeps screaming at them to get out, but then again, whose fault is it for not posting guards outside where the Emperor is? The commander catches up with his men and yells at them that now that they're in a military camp, he demands discipline from them, but because his men were already interrupting Caesar, the commander himself gets arrested under orders from the Emperor for their actions. Whoops. Anyway, our heroes are unable to locate Tragicomix, but a nearby soldier overhears them talking about him.
Soldier: Tragicomix... Tragicomix with a T, as in "Timeo Danaos et Dona Ferentes"?
Linkara: Given this call back, Latin jokes about the Trojan War were apparently a thing in France in 1967.
Linkara (v/o): The soldier says that Tragicomix has been lost since a skirmish shortly after he arrived. They don't know if he's been killed or captured, but fortunately, a spy is arriving that night that might be able to inform them of his whereabouts. The spy's name? H2SO4.
Linkara: Eh, not a bad name for an astromech droid, but have you considered "ST3V"? Props to the three of you who get that reference.
Linkara (v/o): Also, his codename is the chemical formula for sulfuric acid? Oh, but I'm sure it makes sense with his real name: Vitriolix. Maybe this joke made more sense in French. Or maybe I'm an idiot. Never discount that possibility, too. Anyway, that night, Chemical Compound Man and informs Caesar of the growing army their enemy has, before he's then pulled away to tell Asterix and Obelix what he knows. And indeed, he spot Tragicomix among the prisoners, so our heroes are off to rescue him. Obelix thinks he must be a nitwit, though, if he got captured by Romans.
Asterix: He didn't have any magic potion!
Obelix: So what...
Linkara: He's not necessarily wrong; Obelix was clearing away forests before we had any indication he was chugging any potions.
Linkara (v/o): And given how Asterix is reacting to some of it that he drinks, I'm guessing the magic potion is actually Red Bull. They bust out of the gate and make their way to the prison camp, but their departure makes the remaining Centurions assume that they were enemy spies. The two encounter an enemy patrol.
Centurion: Hey! You two! Give us the password!
Asterix: Why, aren't you in the know?
Centurion: I should think I am! Cogito Ergo Sum.
Asterix: Right. Pass, friend!
Linkara: Rene Descartes, Roman Centurion.
Linkara (v/o): Realizing their mistake, the patrol gets into a fight with the two. However, the sound of that battle soon reaches a patrol sent to retrieve them and leads them to believe that the enemy is on the move to attack. Our heroes reach the enemy camp, but can't remember the password given to them by the patrol, so once again, they force their way inside.
Linkara: Why are the Gauls still at war with the Romans if their potion makes just two of them this powerful?
Linkara (v/o): Despite remembering the password after beating up a guard, the camp goes nuts and assumes they're under a direct attack as well. Ironically, though... they are. Caesar decides now to counterattack the perceived attack. Finally, the two reach the cell where Tragicomix is located and... yeah, I guess he's handsome, but considering how everyone else in the series looks, shouldn't he be considered weird-looking?
Asterix: We've come to look for you. Panacea sent us.
Linkara: (as Asterix) She says you're behind on your child support payments.
Linkara (v/o): The three make their way out, not giving a crap about the battle taking place outside the camp between the two Roman forces. Said battle... does not have very good command structure.
Roman leader 1: FORM A PHALANX!
Roman leader 2: FORM A SQUARE!
Roman leader 3: FORM A QUINCUNX!
Roman leader 4: FORM A CIRCLE!
Roman leader 5: FORM A TORTOISE!
Linkara: (as one of the Roman leaders) FORM AN ORDERLY QUEUE AND WE'LL GET TO YOU WHEN IT'S YOUR TURN!
Linkara (v/o): The enemy is forced into retreat, much to Caesar's delight. See? Look how happy he is!*
- NOTE: Ironically, Caesar's expression is more of a scowl than anything.
Caesar: I know you're my enemies, Gauls, but today you have brought me victory. Caesar is not ungrateful! I will grant you any favor you care to ask!
Linkara: (as Asterix) Caesar, let me tell you of the Gaul tradition of hookers and blow.
Linkara (v/o): No, of course, it's to go back home, which he's only too happy to grant. Our heroes head on home, once again defeating the pirates off-panel and their newly-acquired Phoenician ship. Tragicomix and Panacea are reunited, with Tragicomix heaping praise on Obelix. She gives him a kiss for that, and he falls over... and then she does the same for Asterix. And so, our comic ends with everybody celebrating their triumphant return, but now Asterix is the one who's lovesick.
Linkara: (holding up comic) This comic is good. (becomes confused) What the hell did you expect me to say?
Linkara (v/o): The art style is cute and nicely cartoonish; the situation itself is full of humor and mirth, particularly for the fish-out-of-water subplot with all the different people in the legion; Asterix and Obelix are extremely likable heroes; and while the jokes aren't exactly sophisticated, they get some chuckles out of me like any good comic would. Honestly, though, given the outlandishness of the superpowers and magic and stuff on display, I don't really know how "Asterix and the Falling Sky" could be that terrible.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "Asterix and the Falling Sky")
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, I hear it deals with aliens, but again, magic potion! I guess I'll find out when someone eventually Patreons it, but for now, "Asterix: The Legionary" is great. Check it out if you're interested.
Linkara: Next time, we take a bit of a break from full-on reviews, especially with two non-comic book things coming after it, with another edition of "Comic Book Quickies"! Bring your own magic Fruit Pies. (gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
I'm sure with how many boars these guy that the species is going to go extinct soon.
Obelix the Tormentor... of his heart!
(Stinger: The panel showing Caesar pounding his fist on the table in determination to capture the alleged spies)
Linkara (v/o): (as Caesar) What?! Those two recruits were spies?! Damn it, I need this like I need a knife in the back!