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Comic Book / Dungeon: The Early Years

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"The people of this modern world looks on their fellows as tools. To such people, men are nothing but a means, not an end in and of themselves. That leaves precious little room for honor, elegance and panache."
Hyacinthe Cavallere a.k.a The Night Shirt

Originally titled Donjon Potron-Minet, The Early Years is a french Funny Animal/Fantasy comic written by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim and designed (in the beginning) by Christophe Blain. The comic is part of the greater Dungeon franchise created by Trondheim and Sfar and is chronologically the first in the series, chronicling the dungeon's eventual rise as well as the youth of its keeper Hyacinthe de Cavallere.

As the comic starts, Hyacinthe has left his father's kingdom in order to go to the city to visit his uncle, the Count of Florotte, who was banished from the kingdom by Hyacinthe's grand-father, because a crippled prince would have brought shame on the family. Upon arriving in the city, Hyacinthe is taken in by his uncle, who in exchange for the room and board wants his nephew to become the assistant of Florotte's assistant, Michael. As luck would have it, Hyacinthe finds out that his uncle is more or less the local Mafia don and that Michael is his top henchman. Determined to combat the crime and corruption of the city, without his uncle's knowledge, Hyacinthe becomes the masked avenger known as The Night Shirt.

This comic contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: Florotte, with emphasis on affably. He rules the town like a don but he prefers bribing than murder.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of the Fantasy genre in general, and, in The Early Years, of swashbuckling fiction in particular.
  • All Species Are Sexually Compatible: Everyone can have sex outside of their species and produce offspring.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Brous, they fall somewhere between monsters you find in dungeon and barbarians.
  • Amoral Attorney: Eustache Ravin, while on the protagonist's side, his first advice to criminals is to avoid falling in the hands of the law. Then when he realized his law practice does not work on xenophobic rabbits and saw them drugging his fiancé, he explains to Hyacinthe that those who lives without real laws must face the consequences before slicings the throat of all the rabbits he gets his hands on.
  • Anachronic Order: The episodes aren't published in the chronological order.
  • Badass Adorable: Marvin was a badass even back when he was a young child
  • Battle Couple: Hyacinthe and Alexandra, his mistress/best assassin.
  • Betty and Veronica: Hyacinthe is torn between the gentle Elise and the immoral Alexandra.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: When the Clerembard's army starts hurting the Arbolesse, Hyppolyte has enough and take arms so he can go in her head to console her and maybe convince her to join the battle. He even bissect two soldiers with a halberd.
  • Brutal Honesty: Cormor admits that he doesn't care about Elise's death and only want to talk to Hyacinthe so he can stop a great disaster. Naturally he is told to get bent by Hyacinthe who is still affected by the event.
  • Cast from Calories: Horus and Alcibiade once escaped a trap by casting an anticipative necromancy spell on themselves, starving to death, returning as zombies, and devouring an entire herd of cows to return to living state.
  • Cats Are Mean: Michael, who is one of the worst examples of this trope. His Establishing Character Moment is violently trying to rape a maid.
  • Character Level: Referenced in the numbering of the stories, which are classified by level. The higher the level, the later the story.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The various artefacts of Destiny which Hyacinthe comes across. The reader is aware that they will have a major importance further down the storyline.
  • Clear My Name: The Night Shirt is accused of murdering one of the professors at the university. Naturally, it's Michael who is the real culprit.
  • Creepy Good: Horus is a necromancer with no social skills but a good heart. His idea to woo Elise is to resurrect undead and demons to sing songs and he likes playing with people's organ if they unnerve him or to make a joke.
  • The Dragon: Michael to Florotte, most of Florotte's evil come from having him to do the dirty work and enjoying it.
  • The Dreaded: The Brous (demonic looking goats), when Hyacinthe hires them as muscles and sneak them into the city, everyone who meets them try to run for it.
  • End of an Era: After Hyacinthe's father dies a Knight Errant asks if Hyacinthe is gonna challenge the persons responsible in a duel one by one as per chivalry rule, Hyacinthe says that he will use the modern way, which the knight notes as the end of the knightly code era. Last page is a bunch of panels showing the conspirators in their bed with their throat slit and the Night Shirt returning to the dungeon, bloodied dagger in hand.
  • Evil Uncle: Florotte, although he treats his nephew pretty well (when not forcing him to participate in criminal schemes and such)
  • Femme Fatale: Alexandra, the snake/lizard assassin whom Hyacinthe becomes hopelessly smitten with.
  • I Love the Dead: Horus is able to lie to a professor with a lie detecting necklace by saying his true motive is to find a cute dead body to cuddle with, it works because that is something he wants to do even if he has another objective. The professor's amused reaction implies that is not even taboo among necromancers.
  • Improvised Cross: Two ninjas form a cross with their katanas and gloatingly ask the vampire if he can see it. He says he can't, as he lost his glasses, and quickly defeats them.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Dr Hippolyte, although his idealism doesn't prevent him from seeing the greed and stupidity in other people.
  • Intangibility: Smoking Stapanelle's herb make the smoker intangible.
  • Jerkass: Michael, taken to extreme when he starts bombing the city.
  • Kick the Dog: Michael alters between this and genuine evil from the moment he's introduced.
  • Magocracy: Cochonville is one, it was made after the wizards went in exile after most of them tried making a coup d'état in Antipolis.
  • Mask Power: Subverted (at least in the beginning), since Hyacinthe, while an enthusiastic upholder of justice is quite clumsy, even with his mask on. He gets better.
  • Morality Chip: Cormor has one that stops him from lying and attacking people since he is an automaton.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Horus, after realizing Chambon's plot (he'd been helping him up to that point, believing that if you can't make kings philosophers, the next best thing is to make the philosophers kings.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Most female birds have a generous pair of breasts.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Chambon, according to Horus his magocracy will be better than the current government but in truth he is just a power-hungry asshole who manipulate Horus and his followers to seize power through a bloodbath. Cochonville, the city of magicians, is shown in later books that magic doesn't make people wiser.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: Most of them are sentient enough to ask for a salary.
  • Sarcastic Confession: Cormor's only way to lie.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Not surprising, since the Hyacinthe in the original Dungeon comic is a bitter, cynical and somewhat greedy character as opposed to the idealistic and romantic youth he is when The Early Years begins. Generally speaking, the series is intended to depict a slow and gradual slide from naive idealism to bitter cynicism, with a tone growing Darker and Edgier as the storyline progresses.
  • Smoking Is Cool: The good God pipe who is actually a destiny item, with the specific herbs it has magic property and with regular ones it makes smoke figures.
  • Spy Catsuit: Alexandra wears one in the second volume (second half of the first volume in English)
  • Super Supremacist: A professor of magic started a complicated plot in which he mind-controlled important people around the city and fathered children with their bodies, granting him an army of brainwashed magic-capable servants. He seemed to be on the Well-Intentioned Extremist side (as Horus put it, "if you cannot make kings into philosophers, then philosophers should be kings"). One night, he ordered the children to kill their parents, but was foiled at the last minute by a repentant Horus (who'd figured out his own son was among them).
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Hyacinthe has unprotected sex with Alexandra in the third book. Turns out the assassin who charms her target and Really Gets Around has crabs. Hyacinthe Lampshades the difference between his expectations of romance and reality.
    • When making his Last Stand Hyacinthe choses to wear a proper knight armor and swing his family sword to at least keep to his father code of honor when faced with impossible odds. Hyacinthe immediately complains about the sword's weight and accidentally hit the walls as he is more of a swashbuckler and kind of small to use the large sword.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Hyacinthe starts out as a bumbling vigilante wannabe, and becomes a ruthless gang leader.
  • Took a Level in Cynic: In "une jeunesse qui s'enfuit", (a fleeing youth) has Hyacinthe killing someone for the first time, sleeps with Alexandra, involuntarily gives crabs to a woman and after one Kick the Dog too many from his antagonists he decides to hire the Brous as muscles to free his friend. The books set after this one as the Night Shirt being leader of the assassin's guild.
  • The Un-Favorite: Florotte was disowned because he was born invalid, something shameful for a family of knights.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Florotte's metro scam leads to the destruction of the city years after his death.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Florotte and Chambon both qualify, being well-respected members of the community and all.
  • Wham Episode: Book 3 "A fleeing youth". Hyacinthe kills someone for the first time and sleeps with Alexandra, and that's the beginning of the story. It's also the beginning of his transition from vigilante to gang leader.
  • Zombify the Living: The wizards Horus and Alcibiade are trapped in a prison. Horus' plan is to cast a Necromancy by Anticipation spell, starve to death, be buried outside the prison, and then rise from the grave (and devouring an entire herd of cows to get back to true life). It works.