Iznogoud is the “truly nasty” grand vizier of Baghdad and his one goal in life is “to be Caliph instead of the Caliph!” With his strong-arm man Wa’at Alahf at his side, the vizier will try just about anything to accomplish his goal. Fortunately for good Caliph Haroun al Plassid and Baghdad, Iznogoud’s plans never turn out the way they’re supposed to.
With names like “Iznogoud,” “Wa’at Alahf,” and “Plassid,” you just know you’re in broad, slapstick-style comedy territory. René Goscinny mines it skillfully. He delivers physical comedy, clever word play, and satiric barbs that work to make this a book that can be enjoyed by both young and older readers.
The four stories in this volume are:
"The Day of Misrule": Iznogoud schemes to take advantage of the one day of the year when servants become masters and masters become slaves. However his simple plan is complicated by the fact that EVERYTHING is topsy-turvey. This story reminds me of that Marx Brothers’ classic Duck Soup with its gleeful chaos and ever-increasing goofiness.
"The Challenge": Using a little known law, Iznogoud tries to set up the Caliph to be defeated in one-on-one combat. This eight-pager has a rather surprising twist as well as one of my favorite sequences--a series of puns and jokes involving a donkey.
"The Labyrinth": The scheming vizier tries to lose the Caliph in Konkretemixos’s labyrinth. Again, this one is very similar in feel to a Marx Brothers’ movie. Think the stateroom scene in A Night at the Opera, only from the outside view and with word balloons.
"Elections in the Caliphate": It’s election time, and Iznogoud tries to rig the election of Caliph with the help of a magician. While the political satire here will probably go over young heads, the story still offers plenty of sight gags for them to enjoy. The visual of Fakir Bellilahf, who has a sword running through him, is always good for a giggle.
Michel Tabary’s art style reminds me more of political cartoons than it does comic books. His characters have that thick-lined, stereotypical, almost rough look that I associate with editorial page cartoons. He can switch styles though.
In The Challenge and The Labyrinth, Tabary uses a more delicate line that increases the attractiveness of the characters. He also keeps the backgrounds simple, focusing instead on filling the panels with goofy-looking, expressive characters.
While Iznogoud and the Day of Misrule isn’t entirely political correct in some spots, overall it’s an enjoyable read.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!