Review: Harbinger – Bleeding Monk #0

As embarrassing as this is, Harbinger: Bleeding Monk pointed out one thing that I’ve completely missed about this entire series… everyone has the same glowing eyes. It’s something that I’m sure others have stared right at and never noticed as well, but as the Bleeding Monk points out, they’re the race of glowing lantern eyes. This issue is the origin of the Bleeding Monk, a character that has appeared since the first issue of Harbinger, and it is both revealing and illusive. It is revealing in that we now have more information about the Bleeding Monk and why he bleeds, but with that comes so many more questions.

The story begins with a scene that is similar to the Monk’s first appearance in Harbinger; a temple in seclusion with an army marching towards it. A scout brings back the information of the approaching army sent by the Emperor of China.  It’s through the Bleeding Monk’s narration that we learn he calls the Harbingers the “Lantern-eyed” people. He tells the other monks there about the Emperor’s soldiers and some want to fight, some want to flee and other want to remain peaceful. It’s an interesting scene because the Bleeding Monk (also it’s worth noting that he’s not bleeding yet) is basically wanting to die due to how long he’s lived. More so he only says what he plans to do and offers no advice on what the others should do, just that their deaths may serve a greater purpose. Of course the troops storm the compound and some fight, some chose not to embrace violence, but almost all die; except for the “eternal” Monk as he’s left for last. It’s in this moment that he sees a spear; he knows the spear, but after so many years he can’t remember where from.

HAR_MONK_ZERO_COVER_HENRYThis issue is actually very different from a typical Harbinger issue. Sure there is some powers used, but there are a lot of philosophical elements sprinkled into the story. In some ways it asks the reader, “what is time” and then proceeds to give its best answer. It wasn’t the comic I was expecting, but damn if it didn’t deliver a better product in the process.

Joshua Dysart really flexes his muscles with this issue. He paints a picture of the Monk’s life throughout history and in a way gives the history of the Harbingers as well. What he does extremely well though is show that there is a much bigger story being told in this series, but he doesn’t give a hint to when it will play out exactly. Will parts of it be in the next story arc or will it all play out there? That’s the great thing about this zero issue; you actually need to come back for answers.

In fact that is the goal of any successful zero issue, to bring the reader back for more. For many publishers this means giving you half of a first issue and hoping you’ll want to read the same thing over again in the first, but with Dysart and Valiant they have delivered a complete story that is both interesting and fresh for the series it’s a part of.

There’s an all-star cast of artists on this book and pretty much all of them are names that have worked on the series previously. Names like: Khari Evans and Mico Suayan. They’re staples in this series so they’re artwork is always a treat. They’re all unified by Ian Hannin’s coloring which gives the changes in art a seamless quality. In fact if you focus on the reading too much you could just miss the handoff.

I love and hate zero issues. When they’re done cheaply they come off as a gimmick just to pick up a few extra bucks from the publisher, but when they’re done like this; with quality and care they can be every bit as important as the main series. From reading this you won’t know what’s happing in the main series, but you should be curious and more importantly you now have a ton of information about the history of the series. Whether you’re a first time reader to Harbinger or you have been here from the beginning, this is a great issue to read and enjoy. So do just that.

Score: 4/5

Writer: Joshua Dysart Artist: Khari Evans, Mico Suayan, Stephen Segovia, and Lewis LaRosa Colorist: Ian Hannin Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 3/19/14