Joshua Dysart’s story, with art by a slew of artists, including Khari Evans and Mico Suayan, in “Harbinger: Bleeding Monk” #0 looks into the past (and the future?) to reveal the origins of the Bleeding Monk. This comic book is an origin tale in the true sense of the term, setting aside any and all current-day action in order to reveal how the character came to be where he is.
Dysart uses the Monk as the point-of-view character for the readers. After all, who better to introduce readers to a character than the character himself? The Monk’s history spans centuries and thousands of miles, but Dysart never allows the reader to lose track of the Bleeding Monk, despite the chaos surrounding the character in every locale throughout the issue. The writer delivers a primer in existentialism and introduces the readers to the Monk’s “thought-no-thought place.” Alexander the Great and Toyo Harada make appearances as the Monk himself reflects upon events and consequences throughout his own history.
The art for this issue is delivered by a quartet of artists and their styles vary enough to be noticeably different from chapter to chapter throughout this issue. Colorist Ian Hannin holds all of the artwork together harmoniously with a vibrant, but somewhat reserved color palette. It helps that each style is more similar than dissimilar, one to the next. The time periods serve as road markers to the art switches, and also enable the story to keep beating. Mico Suayan draws the opening scene, which is heavily photo-influenced, if not straight-up photo-referenced. This scene features the invasion of Emperor Qianlong and is coated with detail and texture from Suayan. Khari Evans draws the crossing paths of Alexander the Great, Kyros and the Naked Lover of Wisdom, which truly serves as the defining scene in this issue. Rounding out the visuals before Suayan closes out the issue, Stephen Segovia depicts the invasion of Northeast Tibet in 1951 with shadows that are richer and more shape than light definition or texture.
At the end of “Harbinger: Bleeding Monk” #0, readers are left to ponder their own existence. Have they just read a comic or merely thought they read a comic while thinking about a comic book being read? While this issue is nowhere near that meta-reflective, it does incite readers to flip back to the beginning and digest the story once again. I’m not certain what ramifications this holds for the near future of this title, but it certainly does provide relevant insight to the origins of the Bleeding Monk and gives readers a milestone to return to as “Harbinger” carries on.