Hyacinthe. Not the manliest of names, but thatís alright Ė heís a duck. In Dungeon: Innocence Lost (The Early Years, Book 2), we meet young Hyacinthe before he becomes the Dungeon Keeper in this action-packed, cloak-and-dagger adventure. He renders justice nightly dressed in a cloak, and people far and wide know him as ďthe Night Shirt.Ē During the day, heís a member of the titled class, Count Cavallere. Heís also the leader of the Guild of Assassins. Not bad, for a squatty, pipe-smoking, anthropomorphized duck.
Two stories are contained within this volume of the series, which seems to have started in France as a sort of a satire of the sword and sorcery genre but has become a cult classic known around the world. In the first story, Alexandra, an ass-kicking snake-woman who is one of the toughest assassins working for Hyacinthe, is about to be raped by a wolf, and our fine-feathered hero has to come to her rescue. Thereís definitely a mutual attraction and a past between the two, and Hyacinthe isnít about to allow any harm to befall Alexandra.
Also in this first story, Hyacinthe crashes through the roof of a building where some thugs are dividing up their loot. He tries giving the money away to a worthy charity by leaving it at the doorstep of the Underoot Orphanage, but when he bangs on the door, the woman who opens it mistakenly thinks sheís being attacked and screams for help. The Night Shirt has little choice but to keep the gold, at least for the time being.
Hyacinthe gains certain powers by smoking specific types of tobacco and herbs. One kind gives whomever smokes it the ability to fly, another makes whomever smokes it ultra-fast, and one melts the flesh and muscle from whomever is attacking, leaving animated skeletons to fend off. It kind of makes me wonder exactly what the authors and cartoonist were smoking when they thought up this graphic novel, but thatís beside the point - having Hyacinthe gain powers from smoking his pipe is one of the many original and inspired touches in the series.
Much hypothesizing as to inherent meanings in this novel is bandied about. One reviewer theorizes that the meaning of Dungeon has to do with ďthe eternal battles between individual and society, between youthful vigor and mature wisdom, between hope and experience.Ē Maybe so, but itís also a mixed bag of The Rescue Rangers, Alice in Wonderland and The Three Musketeers. Thatís my theory, at any rate, for it combines adventure, action, eating/smoking substances that have strange effects on the imbiber or others, heroics, and well-drafted, colorful artwork that helps convey the plot as much as, if not more than, the words do.
The second story in the graphic novel is my favorite between the two. Itís set years after the first one, and Hyacinthe is now married. That doesnít stop Alexandra from plotting to gain him back. Also, a subway being built and funded by the wealthy elite of Antipolis, including Hyacinthe, is undermining the entire city. If work is not halted, Antipolis is in danger of collapsing in on itself. Can Alexandra save Hyacinthe from himself? Can a duck-billed professor who is more than what he appears to be on the surface convince assassins to help him in his scheme to stop construction of the subway in time to save Antipolis?
[WARNING: Though this is a fun, way-cool graphic novel with excellent artwork, itís not for the kiddies or younger teens. Itís meant for older teens and adults for depictions of violence, bad language, and brief gratuitous cartoon sex. Still, itís a wonderfully twisted, adventure-filled graphic novel youíll want to add to your collection.]