The mysterious figure named The Bleeding Monk, who has graced the pages of Valiant Comics' Harbinger title off and on since it's inception and acted as Toyo Harada's confidant, finally has his origin story revealed, but the mystery and supernatural aura surrounding the monk is only intensified in Joshua Dysart, Mico Suayan, Khari Evans, Stephen Segovia, and Lewis LaRosa's Harbinger: Bleeding Monk #0.
The Bleeding Monk is revealed to be much older, and from a much different area of the world, than one would have originally thought. Without revealing too much, and thus spoiling the effect of Dysart's intelligent and dense narrative, let's just say that it's safe to say that readers of Harbinger have figured out that the monk was one of the first psiots ("lantern-eyed ones" as the monk refers to them as) to exist. The plane that he exists on, and his actions, coupled with his visions of the future, make him capable of much more than we have imagined though. While not quite a Professor Xavier type of character, the monk was integral to the foundation of what could have been considered the first school for gifted psiots. Being of an age that is far older than any readers of Harbinger could have imagined, the monk has seen much, but visions of the greatest battle to ever occur still haunt his visions of the future...
It is how Dysart uses real life historical settings and real life philosophies and religions, such as Buddhism, to set the stage for the story of the character, who might just be the first psiot, that lends a real world seriousness and authenticity to the story of the type that we haven't seen in a comic book since the inception of the Marvel Universe. How Dysart also draws parallels between the Buddhist/Hindu aesthetic of meditation as the path to enlightenment and meditation as a means of awakening one's inner psiot powers is also smart allegorical storytelling. For those closely reading Harbinger, Peter Stancheck is so important to Toyo Harada because he appears to be the only other "self activated" psiot. Harbinger: The Bleeding Monk #0 reveals that the monk just might be the third. They seem destined to form a strange trinity with Harada playing the part of the harsh father-god with his strict rules and Old Testament violence, Peter playing the role of the very human savior of mankind, and The Bleeding Monk playing the role of a holy spirit-like character that mediates between the two in some strange way. Perhaps I'm reading into the story too much, but it is a fascinating allegorical possibility. Either way, I can't wait to see where Dysart takes the overarching story of these three.
The artistic team that brings Dysart's astute tale to life do an excellent job of recreating a myriad of historical ages, styles of dress, and ways of war. From Greek hoplites battling Hindu army elephants to the soldiers of Emperor Qianlong battling a community of Buddhist psiot monks, each and every page flows into one another effortlessly and seamlessly. This is not an easy feat for a collection of artists to pull off, but the talented artists here pull it off with ease. Also, much to the joy of many a sequential art fan, these artists are all enamored with creating highly detailed art as well. Each panel and page is full of wonderful detail and they are all a feast for the eyes.
Valiant Comics continues to create some of the most interesting, well thought out, and intelligent comics being published today. What is so scary though is that it feels like their best is still yet to come.