Review by Frank Plowright
The terrifying aspect of reading The Mansions of the Gods after all these years is how accurately it lays out the Israeli plan of settlements on the West Bank. Writer René Goscinny knew nothing of that in 1971, when his intention was to satirise the new suburbs being built around Paris following the 1968 riots.
Having failed to subdue those pesky Gauls and their magic potion in any other fashion, Julius Caesar conceives the plan of destroying the surrounding forest and creating a luxurious Roman settlement to surround the village. The wonderfully named architect Squareonthehyponus is commissioned to oversee the development. More than in any other volume Goscinny draws mileage from repeated variations on a single joke, that of the Romans uprooting trees overnight only to discover their clearing has vanished in the morning. It starts with slaves from assorted nations needing to sing as they work, with the Goths delivering a particularly ear shattering rendition of Silent Night. As the Romans become dispirited Asterix and Obelix supply the slaves with magic potion, ensuring immediate bargaining power.
Eventually the druid Getafix suggests permitting the Romans their development as the forest can be rapidly restored, and the entirely unexpected occurs. Unfazed by Roman soldiers, commerce rapidly drives wedges between the villagers until Asterix conceives a brilliant solution to drive them away.
Artist Albert Uderzo supplies almost effortlessly top quality cartooning, even interrupting the volume for a double page spread of the brochure Caesar’s using to lure Romans to Gaul. Among the delights are a school where slaves teach children and update parents during a Parent-Slave Association meeting. Whips are provided to be applied to either slave or child. The brochure is presented as if chipped into tablet, complete with amphora style illustrations.
The Mansions of the Gods is prime Asterix, one of the top volumes of the world’s best comics.