Written by Joel T. Lewis
As a massive James Bond fan, I’ve had the misfortune of remembering that Dynamite comics have been producing a handful of Bond Comics too late to follow them month to month. So, I have had to watch as issues of James Bond: Black Box, Kill Chain, Hammerhead, and Felix Leiter have come and gone and wait patiently for the trades to be released and the funds to invest in them. Missing out on the Felix Leiter series was particularly painful as I have a fond affection for the sometimes bumbling CIA agent. So, when I discovered in advance that there was going to be a Moneypenny one-shot, I was ecstatic and it was instantly added to my pull-list. If anybody affiliated with Dynamite Comics happens to be reading this, please give our girl a full-on series, because she kicks some major ass in this one-shot.
Jody Houser’s one-shot does a great job balancing a fragmented origin story for Moneypenny with a present-day narrative describing her first security detail assignment after leaving field work. One of the most poignant flashbacks in this issue dealt with one of Moneypenny’s first memories of prejudice. After a group of bullies, led by a blonde-haired blue-eyed girl, at her primary school harass one of her middle-eastern school mates, implying that all people from that area are potential terrorists, Moneypenny’s attempt to comfort her friend has an unexpected response. In the girl’s bathroom later, Moneypenny asserts that the recent terror attacks that have gotten everyone up in arms have nothing to do with her friend or her family. Her friend responds passionately as she storms past, ‘I know that. I'm not the one you needed to say that to.’ It is a nuanced and powerful point that Jody Hauser makes about the power and context of words and the proper venues and strategies for standing up for the persecuted. By comforting her friend after the fact, Moneypenny acted out of compassion, but from a position of comfort (behind the closed doors of the girl's bathroom). But if she had stood up to the group of bullies as they were being cruel, the vulnerability of that position would have been a real testament to the ally Moneypenny was trying to be.
This early experience shapes Moneypenny into a powerful and unapologetic adult, who does not bend towards convention and refuses to suffer bigotry. Moneypenny demonstrates this firm stance as a powerful woman of color as she calls out her the male members of her team for their misogynist and condescending statements about her refusal to join them for a drink on the job. The creative combination of colorist Dearbhla Kelly and artist Jacob Edgar showcase just how no-nonsense Moneypenny is as an operative. The way she views the world around her informs our perception of her as a highly skilled agent. Contrasting the location of exits, weapons, and tools with shades of red set against cooler tones of bluish greens to indicate neutral spaces in rooms, Kelly and Edgar show that whenever Moneypenny enters a room, she's instantly aware of the best object to use as a weapon and the quickest escape route.
Though her reassignment from straight field work to head of security detail seems to irk Moneypenny, the man she is assigned to guard assures her of her worth and competence and the tired trope of ‘undervalued agent lowered to babysitting’ is quickly disarmed. Moneypenny takes this new assignment very seriously, and it's a good thing too. Following a speech by the man her subject traveled to see, Moneypenny notices an eerie absence of students moving about on the college campus and proceeds to dismantle a large team of operatives aiming to kill her subject. I don't want to go into too much detail about this powerhouse sequence at the end of this issue but I will say that this creative team shows Moneypenny to be every bit as competent, efficient, and clever an operative as James Bond and don't forget: she's doing it all in heels!
Comics need more strong bad-ass women of color as their focus, and Moneypenny is a great example of a character who can carry her own series in a universe dominated by male agents. Move over James, it's Moneypenny’s turn! Until next time, Geek On!