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Tuesday, 10 May 2011

In Review: Iznogoud The Infamous

The Grand Vizier of Baghdad, who's one desire in life is "to be Caliph instead of the Caliph", returns in Iznogoud The Infamous, his seventh book published by Cinebook. Written by Asterix's Rene Goscinny and illustrated by Jean Tabary, this book was originally published as the French album Iznogoud l'Infâme in 1969 and has previously been published in the UK by Methuen in 1977.

As is usual for Iznogoud books, it consists of several different stories. In The Sinister Liquidator he persuades a water demon to dissolve the Caliph, but will there be enough water left in the bucket for the demon to live in by the time Iznogoud and his man-servant Wa'at Alahf trek across the desert and reach the palace? In The Invisible Menace Iznogoud attempts to make the Caliph invisible so that his people will forget about him. In The Unlucky Diamond Iznogoud's greed over the diamond backfires badly on him. In The Magic Doll an African witch doctor shows Iznogoud how to make a voodoo doll that he decides to use against the Caliph. Finally in The Mysterious Billposter Iznogoud imprisons the Caliph in an enchanted holiday poster.

Is there really anything new that can be said about each Iznogoud book? In each story the character's motivation is the same, he goes about his current method of achieving his task in the most extreme way, he fails, he suffers his comeuppance and by the next story the situation has defaulted back to the status quo again. It sounds repetitive and basically it is.

However these are stories written by Goscinny which means that while the motivation and outcome is repetitive, the methods Iznogoud employs to dethrone the Caliph are wild and wonderful and Tabary's artwork is equally wild and wonderful. Perhaps the best example in this book is in The Mysterious Billposter in which our main characters are pushed into a magical wall poster of a holiday beach from which they cannot escape and climbing the palm tree to the top of the poster's scene brings them back out of the hole they have just dug in the sand below themselves. It is all quite surreal but intriguing as to how they could finally escape.

Iznogoud The Infamous is a quick fun read for adults and, with its selection of short stories, would be a good introduction to humorous graphic novels for youngsters who as yet would find the 48 pages of an Asterix story too long.

There are more details of the current British Iznogoud books on the Cinebook website.

There are more details of the French Iznogoud books at the Tabary Editions
website (in French).

There are more details of Iznogoud around the world at the Iznogoud World

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