The Bleeding Monk has been shrouded in mystery and appeared when necessary, but aside from offering words of wisdom, we don't know all that much about him. Where is he from? Why is his chest a non-stop fountain of fruit punch? Joshua Dysart dedicates the entirety of this issue to finally revealing the powerful character's tale and, if you've been digging HARBINGER's mythos, odds are it'll keep a tight grip on your attention.
Look, I've been a huge fan of Dysart's work (both on HARBINGER and now BLOODSHOT & H.A.R.D. CORPS). The writer has this fantastic ability to captivate readers by humanizing his characters and making it simple to connect with them. This issue, however, casts aside our ability to completely relate to and understand the main character. It instead tells an intriguing story that's somewhat akin to Dr. Manhattan's chapter over in WATCHMEN (you've heard of it, yeah?). What goes through the mind of a character who has the ability to spend decades in a mere moment and exist in all moments of time at once? How'd he reach that level of power? Dysart addresses these questions while also pulling back the curtain and revealing this individual's origin story. It's a legitimately fascinating experience and even sheds a little more light on his first encounter with Toyo Harada. Truth be told, it's something many of you will probably want to read twice just to make sure you grasp most of it.
There's a lot of hands creating the visuals. In total, there's four artists (Khari Evans, Mico Suayan, Stephen Segovia, Lewis LaRosa) and one colorist (Ian Hannin). Does this make for a somewhat jarring transition as we jump to a scene with a different style? For sure, but each artist is able to deliver and it's a consistently satisfying experience for the eyes. Yes, some pages will leave much more of an impact than others, but each offers an immersive look at their respective scenes. Some of the character work here is certain to keep you gazing, too. You can feel the anger simply by glancing at a soldier's face in one scene, and in another, you can experience chaos as the scope and aftermath of a huge battle is revealed. As expected, the final splash page is certain to leave an impression, too.
Seeing as the Bleeding Monk hasn't played a critical role in the book for quite some time (at least to our knowledge...), I can't help but wonder why the character is now receiving a one-shot which apparently doesn't connect to the ongoing's current story and instead offers a look at the previous one. Don't get me wrong, it's a gripping one-shot, but it would have felt a tad more topical if it came out when the character was playing a more prominent role in the title. Then again, perhaps that's entirely my fault for having a linear thought process?
While it isn't quite as compelling as HARBINGER's previous #0 issue about Toyo Harada (not too many books are capable of topping that), this is still a completely absorbing experience and, to me, deserves 5-stars. Sure, the timing is a little odd (or seems to be), but it's still an engrossing standalone story that hits us with some impressive character work and finally sheds some light on an interesting character. Now that they've given him a brighter spotlight, here's hoping Valiant has some big plans for the character in HARBINGER's near future. Needless to say, this is something every HARBINGER fan should pick up.