Forever Evil: A.R.G.U.S. #1 – DC’s S.H.I.E.L.D.
So, Forever Evil is in full swing, the Crime Syndicate is taking over the world swiftly and devastatingly, forcing everyone left to try and scramble to figure out a way to beat an evil Justice League. Oddly enough, that's something Amanda Waller has been planning for, but her Justice League of America team is nowhere to be found – in fact, none of the Justice Leagues are. So can the American government's supervillain response team – aka the Advanced Research Group Uniting Superhumans – succeed where the actual superheroes have failed?
That's what we aim to find out in Forever Evil: A.R.G.U.S., a six-issue miniseries from writer Sterling Gates, with an initial art team of Philip Tan, Neil Edwards and Javier Pina. The first two months of the entire Forever Evil event have been spent looking into every corner of the DCU for reaction to the events of the first issue, where Ultraman and his cronies conquered everything immediately. FE:A #1 is more of the same, although we actually get a glimpse of some action from a guy who was there when they first showed up – Steve Trevor. He's been the liaison to the Justice League, Wonder Woman's boyfriend, and the leader of the JLA, and now he wakes up with a jolt in ARGUS HQ in Washington to a world in chaos, with nothing but a vague task assigned by Madame Xanadu of the Justice League Dark about "seeking the truth." Worse yet, his colleague Etta Candy informs him that ARGUS has been completely exposed – every agent, undercover or not, has been revealed and targeted – and the organization is almost completely destroyed, with no contact with Waller and the belief that every Justice League is dead.
Interspersed with memories of meeting Wonder Woman and having President Obama create ARGUS to keep superheroes in line and hand him the command post, we see Trevor trying to pick up the pieces and be a bad enough dude to rescue the president, who's been kidnapped by Deathstroke The Terminator – a guy who has a history with Trevor, dating back to the ill-fated Team 7 book. Given that Slade Wilson is superhuman and Steve Trevor is not, it doesn't go well. Oh, and by the way, Dr. Light is alive and angry.
What with Team 7 and A.R.G.U.S., DC is really pushing to have an organization that's a lot like Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D. (especially now that they are TV and movie stars), and the New 52 has done a good job of elevating Trevor's profile from his previous status of 'guy who likes Wonder Woman.' He was actually the best character in the early issues of Justice League, which may say more about what was wrong with that run than what was right, but still. What's more, perhaps the only upside to DC driving away the fantastic creators of Batwoman is that now, the Department of Extranormal Operations (and their badass leader Director Bones, the guy with invisible skin) may be able to take a larger role in the DCU proper and fold into these proceedings (although there's no sign of that yet). There is potential here, and maybe Gates is the guy to do it. It was always kind of sad that his New 52 beginnings were getting stuck with Rob Liefeld and Hawk and Dove, so we can hope that this is Gates' time to be sterling. Yes, I went there.
The issue itself is pretty intense with some compelling moments, but while I can respect DC's attempts to be thorough here in their first big event, issue after issue of reaction to devastation in every book (thanks to the explosion of issues in Villains Month) has gotten a little stale. Its trio of artists is, surprise surprise, a mite inconsistent, but they're very solid in places. The initial page of Trevor's first sight of Wonder Woman is rather stellar, and the final page of Dr. Light is very dynamic.
It's possible ARGUS can emerge as a rock-solid part of the DCU. Team 7 didn't take, but maybe this series will.