Harbinger: Bleeding Monk 0 is one weird book. The Bleeding Monk, a man gifted with the ability to see the future, was Harada’s guide for the Harbinger foundation, although he disappeared after a quarrel. Bleeding Monk 0 is something of an origin story for the monk and for his association with Harada, paving the way for his return to Harbinger.
Dysart makes the interesting choice of telling this in the second person, making the reader, addressed by the word “you” just as much as the monk is, a part of the monk’s consciousness as he is “first” scattered through time and begins to bleed–the quotation marks there are deliberate as the tale makes it clear that, for the Bleeding Monk “first” and “next” are more than a little ambiguous. “This is the last day of your linear life,” the narrator remarks near the beginning.
This does raise the question: Who is the narrator? The monk himself? Some outer, all-knowing figure? It’s also interesting to note that the origin story doesn’t entirely give the monk’s origin: It tells the when (more or less), but not the “why” or even, necessarily, the “how.” His path to seeing the future is clear, but does he gain his powers because the meditation works or (more likely, in the context) because he, like Harada, has power of his own? Hopefully, this will become clearer as the story unfolds.
Mostly, the story works well if one is willing to go with the flow and appreciate the surreal nature of the events portrayed. Every now and again, practical considerations break through: Could one man conceivably bleed enough to cause a mudslide? Surely even the most enthusiastic gusher would not be fast enough to prevent absorption, no matter how long someone stood in one place, especially in flat flat farmland? All that blood might be rather good fertilizer, though.
What does work is the portrayal of the Monk’s early turmoil as he tries to find peace in the thought-no-thought-place yet wonders how it is possible to accept coming events without seeking to try to change them, an attitude he apparently never quite gives up, as he welcomes Harada’s arrival. It is interesting to learn that there is someone who wants to pull the strings of the great puppet master, Harada, himself. It’s no wonder they ultimately quarreled. Their future (“future”?) following the Monk’s return should be quite tumultuous.
For such a surreal story, the art is quite straightforward, serving to anchor a tale about someone who is essentially unanchored and giving the reader a focus as the Bleeding Monk’s tale travels through multiple eras and locations. Event he monks’ outrageous feats at the beginning (blowing fire and extraordinary acrobatics) are matter-of-factly illustrated with few liberties taken in panel arrangement. The panel showing the young, hopeful Harada is arresting simply for what it shows: Harada before he became the arch-manipulator and schemer that we all know and love.
Bleeding Monk 0 is the start of a new arc in and a good place for new readers to jump on board.