Review by Andrew Littlefield
Although labelled the seventh album in Cinebook’s welcome series of Iznogoud translations, this is actually the fourth album in the series, and was previously published in the UK, in a different translation, by Methuen in 1977. In Iznogoud the Infamous, the distinguished French writer-artist team of René Goscinny and Jean Tabary once again give us five short strips all revolving around the hapless Iznogoud’s attempts to overthrow the current ruler of Old Baghdad and become “Caliph instead of the Caliph”. Needless to say, he has yet to succeed in this ignoble aim.
Goscinny, best known as the writer of Asterix and Lucky Luke, never met a pun he didn’t like. The lead story here – ‘The Sinister Liquidator’ – features a supernatural Djinn that lives in a fetid swamp and who proudly boasts that, “any creature unfortunate enough to touch the water where I live is instantly dissolved”. By the third story page, Goscinny has already given us ‘Djinn and Tonic’, ‘Djinnx’, ‘Djinngerly’, and ‘Djinnger things up’. Cinebook’s uncredited translator deserves plaudits for handling such linguistic contortions with aplomb.
The second story is titled ‘The Invisible Menace’, wherein a new magician by the name of Omar Aythinkthereforeayyam comes to town. This MMA (Master of the Mystic Arts) sells Iznogoud the secret of invisibility – perfect for making Caliphs vanish – but surprise surprise, by the end of the tale it’s Iznogoud and his faithful strong-arm man Wa’at Alahf who can no longer been seen by anyone else.
Next up is ‘The Unlucky Diamond’, about a precious gem that brings only bad luck, followed by ‘The Magic Doll’, which features both a voodoo doll and, unfortunately, a badly dated racial stereotype of an African Witch Doctor named MumboJumbo. Finally, ‘The Mysterious Bill Poster’ is another frantic farce with magic at the centre of things. This time it’s a poster for ‘The Ideal Holiday’ that can exile people to a desert island. No prizes for guessing where Iznogoud finds himself by the end of the strip.
While the Iznogoud strips are no match for the best Asterix or Lucky Luke albums, they never drop below a certain standard either – Goscinny and Tabary are nothing if not consummate pros. Younger readers in particular should find much to entertain them here. Iznogoud Rockets to Stardom is the next album.