Nearly two years to the day after DC re-launched their entire superhero line with the New 52 initiative, they’ve finally got around to a line-wide crossover. They’ve earned it. Forever Evil #1 ties familiar DC Universe concepts to new ideas, populates every page with as many characters as possible, and effectively raises the stakes for everyone involved. And there’s barely a hero in sight. Well, there’s one…but it doesn’t go well for him.It’s amazing what a difference things make when you put the spotlight on the villains. While much of Forever Evil #1 just comes right out of Event Comic 101 (showcase as many different corners of the publishing line as possible, set up potential side minis and crossovers, etc), the fact that each of these snippets is focused almost exclusively on the villains helps keep things feeling fresh. Look at it this way: when Lex Luthor, on the verge of effectively and ruthlessly ruining someone’s entire life and reason for existence ends up looking like the “lesser evil,” you know things are gonna get serious. The Crime Syndicate, a sometimes overlooked relic of the Silver and Bronze Ages of comics, are handily the biggest threat this DC Universe has faced, and we may finally experience the full horror of what happens when characters like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are stripped of their compassion and responsibility. This isn’t the newest idea out there, but there’s something about the tone of Forever Evil that implies that this will be explored to its fullest this time around. Remarkably, for a book populated almost entirely with supervillains, there’s only one (kind of hilarious) on-panel act of horrific violence. All other threats are implied, although something tells me that this isn’t going to hold for future issues.Geoff Johns clearly relishes putting dialogue in the mouths of characters like Lex Luthor and Ultraman, and the repeated themes about “survival of the fittest” read like a sidways dig at a number of political arguments leveled against the less fortunate in our world. David Finch and Richard Friend do a capable job on the art, although his real strength comes in effectively pulling off the big supervillain crowd scene (another standard event trope, but subverted just enough to make it fun) that comes in the middle of the book. And, as it turns out, there’s a fairly significant in-story reasoning for the muted color pallette of the book, which is a nice touch.[related article: Forever Evil – 5 Crime Cyndicate Stories That Shook the Multiverse] Now, on to the SPOILERS…But then there’s the elephant in the room: the fate of Nightwing. When DC released those Forever Evil teaser images that hinted at bad news for Nightwing, well…things almost got ugly. I’m pleased to report that Dick Grayson survives his encounter with the Crime Syndicate, but it’s safe to say that “things will never be the same.” On the surface, the Crime Syndicate’s public announcement of Dick Grayson’s identity seems a little bit trite. After all, we’ve already seen Spider-Man unmasked before the world in the pages of Civil War (something which was neatly fixed along with…well…you know how that all went). But here’s the thing…Dick Grayson isn’t the issue here. Nightwing fans know that this is a character who has put his life on the line since childhood. Death doesn’t scare him. But now the entire world knows who he is, and by extension, his family and friends. Ultraman’s promise that they “will hunt down and destroy everything [he] cares about” probably isn’t an empty threat. Now, a good chunk of Dick’s friends and surrogate family are people like Barbara Gordon, Bruce Wayne, and Tim Drake…all of whom can handle themselves. But certainly they (or the DCU in general) can’t afford any more public unmaskings. The potential consequences for Nightwing are far worse than the revelation of his identity, or even the safety of his loved ones. There’s an implication that the Crime Syndicate’s Owlman might have plans for Nightwing, since he seems to have lost his own Dick Grayson some time before. Could the failure of the world’s heroes to protect his loved ones be the thing that turns Nightwing from hero to villain? If so, maybe Forever Evil is indeed going to offer us something we haven’t seen in these types of comics before.