Sunday, June 01, 2008

A File from the Trapper Keeper

I find myself wondering what the Time Trapper is up to.

Part of the problem is that the character has changed over the years. He started off as a more-or-less generic supervillain, one who was inconveniencing the Legion with his Iron Curtain of Time, but who was, once confronted, relatively easily defeated. Then... I just thought up this idea. Editorial decisions forced continuity changes on the Legion, and the Legion writers (Levitz, Giffen, the Bierbaums, and now Geoff Johns) found that the Trapper was a useful tool for enacting those changes within the story. But, the more continuity-shifting events the Trapper was written to encompass and transcend, the more powerful and cosmic the Trapper is implied to be.

Now, I'm not talking about the issue of who the Time Trapper is. Although that's interesting too. For instance: during the Great Darkness Saga, the Trapper was understood to be a Controller, and, while he was imprisoned, one of Darkseid's Servants drained his power. But then later, it was revealed that that was actually one of the real Time Trapper's... decoys, I guess. Stand-ins. And the idea of who the Trapper was shifted, so that he was now the incarnation of entropy. Then later he was Cosmic Boy. Then later he seemed to be either or both of Lori Morning or Glorith. But this isn't the real point.

The point is, the more powerful and cosmic the Trapper is, the harder it is to figure out his motivation. At the height of the Trapper's activity in Legion history (late Levitz and early Five Years Later), his motivation was: he was competing with Mordru for power in the 30th century. As such he engineered the existence of the Legion and the pocket universe and all that stuff. He made the Legion, he hooked them up with Superboy, and he turned them loose on Mordru. Didn't work out all that well for him, but that's okay.

Now it looks like Geoff Johns isn't using this motivation. (Mordru seems to be part of the horde assembled behind Superboy-Prime, according to one of those promos we saw.) As we saw in Action Comics #864, the Trapper has a grudge against Superman and his legacy. He wants to separate Superman off from the Legion. He may want the Legion dead. But: why?

The obvious answer is: for a reason we haven't learned yet. And that's fine. Except.

If the Trapper wants all that stuff, why doesn't he just do it? If he can do all this temporal engineering, he can do pretty much anything he wants. So, he wants the Legion dead, why not just kill them? It shouldn't be too tough for him. What's holding him back?

It's like the thing about God. The argument about God is, if God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent, how can there be evil and suffering in the world? The existence of the evil and suffering implies that God is not all three of those things. Similarly, the continued survival of the Legion implies that the Time Trapper is not both omnipotent and omnimalevolent.

And maybe he isn't. I think it's obvious by this point that the Trapper has enough power to accomplish about whatever he wants. Doesn't he? Guy can create an entire universe with its own Superboy, he can pull people backward and forward in time however he wants... He should be able to polish off the Legion anytime he likes. But his appearances with regard to the reboot Legion weren't malevolent at all, but sort of ruthlessly supportive. Again, he seemed to consider the Legion to be his tools.

The other problem is Barbara Hambly. Hambly is one of my favourite fantasy authors. In one of her novels, The Silicon Mage, the main characters, Antryg and Joanna, have to take time out from their important affairs to save a small village from what they're told is the Dead God. The Dead God, in the mythology of this novel, is the god of entropy, the god who died so that eventually he would inherit all of existence. Antryg and Joanna realize that this can't be the actual Dead God, and find that it's really an insane telekinetic alien who's being poisoned by the atmosphere. After all, if it was the real Dead God, he wouldn't need to terrorize a village. All he has to do is wait, and he'll get everything he wants in the end. He went to all the trouble of dying so that he wouldn't have to bother himself with every little village!

And the Time Trapper is in the same situation. He lives at the end of time, where Superman and the Legion are long gone. What's it to him what happened in the 30th/31st centuries? That's all over, and he remains. Actually confronting the Legion in any way should be beneath him, because it's all going to turn out the same way anyway.

What we need is: A reason why the Trapper a) should give a rat about Superman and the Legion in the first place, b) should be moved to actually do anything about it, and c) would not be able to solve the problem with a snap of his fingers.

Try this. Let's say Superman, in himself or in his legacy, is a great enough superhero to overcome the laws of thermodynamics. If the Legion is allowed to continue to work with Superman as superheroes in the 31st century, they'll defeat entropy and prevent the heat death of the universe. And the Time Trapper will fade out of existence. And the fact that this is even a possibility means that the Trapper's power is limited and all he can do is some remote manipulation. (I actually like that. Of course Superman and the Legion could beat the heat death of the universe! I'm surprised they haven't done it already. Certainly the idea belongs in a DC comic. Remember, you heard it here first!)

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