Until 2012’s Skyfall, the average James Bond fan probably didn’t think much about Moneypenny. She was little more than the secretary Bond flirted with while he waited to talk to M. For the most part, that’s how she’s functioned in Dynamite’s various comic incarnations of Bond—though with a more vicious wit. Now, however, we finally get to see Miss Moneypenny in action and it is damn fun.
On some level, it feels like writer Jody Houser is deliberately playing with the audience’s expected image of Moneypenny. Her poor marksmanship basically set off Skyfall, but scenes of her at a shooting range here and in the issue’s climax feel like direct responses to that storyline.
Even on a superficial level, there’s something thrilling about seeing her dodge bullets in a polka dotted dress (which Dearbhla Kelly has rather wonderfully colored a dusty purple to make it as drab and schoolmarm-ish as possible). It’s the moments like that, when Moneypenny pushes against patriarchal expectations of what a secretary can do, when the issue is at its most enjoyable.
Though Mennypenny is — as the issue proves — M’s #1 bodyguard, she’s not the only agent who accompanies him on a trip across the pond. While two of the agents seem to trust her judgement, the third (who, with his verbal jabs at Moneypenny seems an awful lot like a Bond stand-in) constantly belittles her commitment to the work. It’s not necessarily a subtle reminder of the constant sexism Moneypenny would probably face in her job, but it’s one that feels real. And while both she and M chastise the smug agent, it’s her proficiency when things go south that really shuts him up.
Perhaps the best thing about this one-shot is the way it simply and elegantly shows that Moneypenny is just as good a spy as anyone else—maybe even better. When the bullets begin to fly, we understand exactly why M picked her to be his right hand. Much of that is thanks to artist Jacob Edgar, who sells both Moneypenny’s alertness and her facility with a gun by emphasizing body movement and subtle shifts in eyeline or expression. It’s also the reason that the issue doesn’t get too confusing as it swings back and forth in time, giving us just as much backstory as action.
That said, all that bouncing back and forth could be a little confusing or at the very least frustrating for the average reader. It can break up the pacing a bit. It also doesn’t help that not all of the information we get about Moneypenny’s past works. While moments like young Moneypenny watching a tragedy unfold on television feel vital, a scene where school-aged Moneypenny reacts to another girl experiencing racism-fueled bullying feels heavy-handed because the dialogue is unrealistic for two children.
With the exception of Skyfall, Moneypenny has often been used as little more than set-dressing in the Bond movies. In her first solo comic, writer Jody Houser proves she’s just as good an agent as Bond. The issue is a solid little spy thriller that’s as good as any of Dynamite’s Bond titles. Hopefully we’ll get more.