REVIEW: James Bond: Moneypenny #1 is a Stilted Spy Slog

Dynamite’s James Bond: Moneypenny one-shot marks the first time that the character has had a comic of her own — but given the weak, incoherent story seen here, it may well be a while before the character gets a second chance. Although there’s seemingly endless opportunity within the concept of telling a story from this character’s perspective, what we get instead is a rote, generic spy story with no sense of complexity and a wafer-thin narrative.

The story meanders all over the place, breaking every two or three pages between “now” and “then” segments which don’t seem to have any real link between each other. The “then” segment in particular struggles constantly to give any weight to what we’re shown, dodging all over the place for incoherently and unlinked moments in Moneypenny’s past which have no relevance to her present situation. It would be understandable if the flashback sequences were designed to show how she developed the awareness which made her the strong field agent she is today, but that’s not what we’re presented. There’s no connective tissue, and it results in a comic which flashes intermittently for a panel or two at a time, but struggles to give the reader anything cohesive to enjoy.

The structure also damages Moneypenny as a character, as she spends most of the issue quietly assessing the room, rather than serving as an active and engaging presence. Nothing here gives the reader any reason to want to see more from the character, which is a shame because there would seem to be a lot that could be explored here. In addition, the character has barely any resemblance to the character as seen in the movies, played by Naomie Harris. Houser doesn’t offer anything other than a simplistic stock character, without any motivation or drive. She’s simply not compelling, and it stalls a comic which is already struggling thanks to some poor pacing choices in the script. Any character — or, to be frank, personality — we’re actually given comes instead from the artistic team of Jacob Edgar and Dearbhla Kelly.

Kelly in particular seizes the opportunity to show off here, choosing a smart palette which allows the art to feel reminiscent at times of Javier Pulido’s cool, crisp approach. The colors offer something distinctive, and pair nicely with Edgar’s design choice for the lead character. Edgar is still developing as an artist, and there are some issues with the way he presents the action scenes — there are issues with clarity, as the layouts don’t convey a strong sense of setting or environment. At times it’s very difficult to work out who is stood in which parts of the shootout that takes over the latter half of the comic, and this, in tandem with a monosyllabic-at-best script, results in a confusing finale for anyone who makes it that far.

Ultimately, Moneypenny is a struggle to read, which is a huge surprise. A compelling lead character and interesting set-up are immediately set aside in favor of a dull script which offers little in the way of coherency or style. Unengaging and stilted, this comic won’t interest even the staunchest of fans.

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