By Rene Goscinny and Jean Tabary
Back again with the denizens of old Baghdad, as we take part once more in the comical tales of Iznogoud, the Grand Vizier of the Caliph’s court, whose one wish is to topple his master and assume his role. Or, in his words:
“I want to be the Caliph instead of the Caliph”
There are 27 volumes of Iznogoud, and each sticks (as far as I can see) to a simple structure; this is Road Runner in old Baghdad with Iznogoud firmly cast as the Coyote and the Caliph a very rotund Roadrunner. And just as with previous reviews of Volume 7 and 8, there’s a lot to be enjoyed simply watching the calamitous Vizier mess up each dodgy plot.
The whole thing is full of invention with regard to Iznogoud’s devious and ridiculously desperate schemes. This time we have a genie from a magic pair of slippers, a fractious neighbouring sultan, a pair of dumb stand-in strong-arm men, a Mongol horde complete with Yurts and yoghurts a Caliph look-a-like, and a fabled island of the giants. And each is used, by devious, deceitful, and frankly doomed Iznogoud, in his Caliph toppling attempts. And every time it goes wonderfully, ridiculously, disastrously wrong for Iznogoud.
But there’s a lot more fun and enjoyment to be had from Iznogoud once you start talking about Goscinny’s delightful and devilish sense of humour that extends way beyond the basic simplicity of the short plots. As good as the plotting here, as lovely as Tabary’s art is to behold, I found myself chuckling most over the many, many wonderful off-hand bits of clever comedy, as the slapstick insanity builds and builds and builds, and suddenly were not looking at a classic WB cartoon, we’re looking at something more British, more post-Python, and the spectre of Basil Fawlty comes into view.
Every few pages you catch Goscinny throwing something wonderful into the story, starting right here on page 1;
It’s Wa’at Alahf’s perfect timing, the innocence of his memory – the silliness that there just happens to actually be a magic item merchant in town, in fact the very concept of a “magic item merchant” is funny enough. And then Goscinny cant help but throw in the merchant’s name as well, presumably sympathetically translated here to capture the punning essence of the man.
Again, it’s all in Goscinny’s wonderful dialogue; “wife, bring me the 47 dirhem and 12 fals bottle!” – it just smacks of the sort of things I read in Asterix when I was younger, and it’s such a pleasure to read it anew.
Oh, I could go on. But that would take away all your fun. Go find out for yourself. It’s so simple, yet so well structured, a master at play. Great fun for all ages, each age range getting something good out of the laughs on offer. I shall leave you with this…..
The very last panel of the first story concerning Iznogoud’s complex plot to use a Genie to overthrow the Caliph. And the wonder of it, the great gag in it isn’t the final panel, it’s the wonderfully tortuous route that Goscinny takes to get to this one line. It’s frankly worthy of Fawlty Towers, the comic equivalent of the moose head clocking Fawlty on the head. Wonderful.
Now, having seen that, you really, really, really want to know how it all falls into place, don’t you?