No longer merely a flirtatious distraction for Bond, James Bond, we finally get a Moneypenny worthy of a more enlightened age. Read on for our review, which contains minor spoilers
Written by Jody Houser
Illustrated by Jacob Edgar
Colored by Dearbhla Kelly
Lettered by Simon Bowland
By writer JODY HOUSER (Mother Panic, Faith) and new artist JACOB EDGAR, a never-before-told mission starring MONEYPENNY, friend of JAMES BOND, former MI6 field agent and bodyguard of M! On a ‘routine’ protection mission, Moneypenny discovers a complicated assassination plot that bears a startling resemblance to a terrorist attack from her childhood. Can she call upon her secret agent skills to stop the plot…?
Recent incarnations of Moneypenny – longtime supporting character in the James Bond franchise – have been a little more favorable than her humble beginnings. It’d be easy to blame the age in which she was created for the fact that she was nothing more than a flirtatious secretary, and that’s certainly a factor. It wasn’t really until the release of Skyfall in 2012, however, that her character got a major upgrade, meaning that for nearly 60 years Moneypenny was a sexual sounding board for all of Bond’s dirtiest of double entendres and not much more.
Thanks to Naomie Harris and the writers of both Skyfall and Spectre, Moneypenny’s character has been given more depth and backstory, and that’s echoed here in what amounts to an origin story, of sorts. Much like the movies, Moneypenny is a skilled and valuable field agent who is selected to be the personal bodyguard of M. This issue wisely sidesteps James Bond entirely, relegating him to the sort of cameo that Moneypenny has been subjected to for over half a century. Instead, we bounce back and forth between the present day mission – her first bodyguard assignment – and pivotal moments in her past that helped shape the person she would become.
Writer Jody Houser gives Moneypenny a stoic nature that focuses not on her but on the perception of her by others. Whether this is intentionally meta or not, it’s a fascinating choice, as it instills a level of confidence in the character of Moneypenny, and instead challenges the cast around her to meet the standard she’s setting. This standard applies both professionally – her inclusion in the mission is questioned on several occasions – and personally – she’s constantly being challenged on her reluctance to indulge in drinking or socializing. With this choice in character focus, Houser is adamantly declaring that Moneypenny is good, it’s everyone else that needs to adjust and get used to that. Moneypenny’s own single-minded focus on the mission is what saves the day, of course, but it’s also consciously polar opposite to how James Bond would approach a mission – he orders a drink so often it’s become a catchphrase after all.
Jacob Edgar’s artwork makes some stylistic choices when depicting Moneypenny’s laser-like focus. The fact that she’s not constantly talking (like Bond) means that the weight of the storytelling often rests on Edgar’s shoulders, and it’s a well-handled burden. The use of panels-within-panels to highlight key features of a scene – used to great effect by David Aja for Hawkeye – is utilized here, as is the use of Dearbhla Kelly’s colors. When surveying an environment, we see through Moneypenny’s eyes as she color codes the threats around her. Green for allies and solid structures, red for windows, weak points and combatants, amber for every person she doesn’t yet know. It’s a fascinating shorthand, one that not only enhances any given panel but allows an insight into Moneypenny’s worldview; everything and everyone is a possible threat until proven otherwise. It’s so insightful and right for the character that it makes you take the concept further in your mind: there’s no way that her desk would be positioned with her back to a window, for example, and any future depictions alluding to that would feel wrong.
Edgar’s clean lines and well-defined panel structure allow for tightly choreographed action scenes, of which there are plenty. His facial expressions are strong too, again useful in a book with limited scripting. Moneypenny is purposefully a character that keeps her cards close to her chest, but Edgar manages to tread a fine line, and depict her as stoic while managing to convey her emotions in any given scene. Likewise, the flashback scenes portray moments crucial to her development, and you can easily see the lessons being learned by the reactions Moneypenny gives.
“James Bond: Moneypenny” is a solid one-shot that manages to find a take on Moneypenny that feels so natural it’s a wonder it’s never been done before. Going further than even the latest movies do, Houser establishes a brand new canon for the supporting character that elevates her role within the Bond mythos while validating the choices she has made previously. The scenes set in the modern day are less of an actual story and more of a tool used to illustrate the strength of Moneypenny and the opposition she so often faces, but in a book that’s setting out to defy expectations and build up a previously relegated character that’s forgivable. The flashbacks are brief but effective, choosing formative moments that give Moneypenny purpose and drive without bogging the character down with any unnecessary baggage, and the creative team has managed to find a brand new voice for the character that’s engaging and most of all important for the overall franchise.
Final Verdict: 7.8 – Giving a much loved supporting character the depth and respect that she deserves, Moneypenny is brought into the 21st century in style.