René Goscinny, the original writer, died in 1977, his last book being Asterix in Belgium (posthumously published), after which the series artist, Albert Uderzo, took up the writing as well - often to mixed reaction.
While Hergé explicitly forbid Tintin to be continued by other hands after his death, there has been success with the continuation of Edgar P. Jacobs' Blake and Mortimer series with new creators, so the situation with Asterix is not new territory - though certainly Asterix is a bigger deal on the world stage than Blake and Mortimer.
Asterix and the Picts sees Asterix and Obelix (strangely, leaving Dogmatix at home) travel to Scotland after a Pict is washed up on the Gaulish beach, frozen in a giant pebble of ice. After thawing him out, they decide to return the Pict to his native land, and end up involving themselves in the task of rescuing his kidnapped fiancé, while also attempting to stop the local rotten clan chief from claiming himself as king.
The artwork can't be faulted, and reading the book I couldn't help but marvel at Conrad's imitation skills. There's some very nice stuff with Nessie, and I liked the fact that the fiancé in the story - even though she did need rescuing - was not the usual film-star blonde, but a slightly more down to earth depiction.
The story is fun and breezy but, apart from the setting, not much leaps out to make it particularly memorable. Perhaps, with Uderzo peering over their shoulders, the new creators decided to play things safe, or maybe it suffered slightly from no one wanting to make any radical suggestions or take any risks with this new venture (even though it could be 'anything goes' after the bizarre Falling Sky).
The plot felt a little stilted, but I wonder how much of that is my acute awareness of the new authors. I certainly didn't laugh as much as I usually do with Asterix, though there was humour enough, and the book didn't feel as sharply clever or witty as during the Golden age of Goscinny. I re-read Asterix in Britain afterwards, the Gauls' other visit to our shores, and it really sparkled, with a story that romped at a pace with plot twists and turns, and many good chuckles.
But overall I'm happy with Picts. It's better than some of the more recent books, and I think - I hope - that the creators will grow more confident, become less intimidated (as admitted), and loosen up a little with their new charges. And I hope Uderzo lets them. There's just enough here to feel optimistic about the future of Asterix.