By Toutatis!

Asterix joins Bond and Poirot among the immortals.

In the little Armorican village that has held out against imperialism since October 1959, when Asterix debuted in the inaugural issue of the influential Belgian magazine Pilote, the ritual feast of wild boar and beer that rounds off every adventure will continue to be celebrated forever. The sky will not fall on the head of Vitalstatistix and Gaul will remain permanently indomitable. Because Asterix and the Picts, by a new writer-artist pair, the first adventure in eight years, has gone to press with an initial print order of 5 million copies. The book has Asterix, Obelix and Dogmatix travelling to the Scottish Highlands. It has kilts. It has whiskey. The Scots are apparently distressed to learn that it has no references to the Scottish referendum.

René Goscinny, who wrote the Asterix stories, died in 1977. The artist Albert Uderzo soldiered on without him, producing fewer books than before and of varying quality. But in 2011, he realised that it was time to pass on the baton. The tree, actually. The cover of Asterix and the Picts shows Obelix hurling a tree trunk in the the Scottish sport of the caber toss. This could be Uderzo's last contribution to Asterix art.

This book was overseen by Uderzo but hereafter, the new writer-artist team of Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad could blaze their own trail. Asterix has survived his creators, joining the enduring greats of popular literature who have laughed in the face of death. Hercule Poirot has found a new writer. James Bond has taken a mature new tack in the hands of William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks, another Bond writer, is resuscitating Jeeves. The power of the franchise is so utterly indomitable that it ought to be declared a form of immortality.

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