I. The Beta Ring has no Yellow Weakness.
The most obvious difference between the two is that Ring Beta lacks the most famous of the Green Lantern’s weaknesses: that is, the ring cannot effect things that are yellow in color. There are two ways to explain how this is possible.
A. The Weakness is Removable
The first, and I think most likely explanation is that Ganthet reprogrammed the ring so that it no longer had the yellow weakness. Some fans might remember that the yellow impurity of the ring was often described as being “necessary” for the powering of the ring. That is to say, the Guardians could not remove the yellow flaw without the ring ceasing to function.
However, I could not find any discussions of the yellow flaw being described as “necessary” that occurred After the Crisis on Infinite Earths. As such, this fact may or may not still be valid in the Post-Crisis continuity. (Lord Knows most other things about the Green Lantern continuity have been changed Post-Crisis.)
For the purposes of this Treatise, we shall presume that the yellow impurity to the ring is a programmed flaw and not in any way “necessary” to the ring’s proper functioning. This can be determined by two examples.
It is well within the powers of a Guardian (Post-Crisis, anyway) to remove the Yellow Impurity.. In Green Lantern #19 (3rd Series), the tale was told of Yalan Gur; then Green Lantern of Space Sector 2814 (the sector Earth is in). Yalan was widely considered to be the greatest of the Green Lantern Corps at that time. There was an occasion where he was nearly killed by a yellow beast of some kind. This incident left the Guardians wondering if it was wise to take the chance of loosing their best and brightest to a manufactured weakness.
They removed the yellow weakness from Yalan’s ring. Sadly, the virtual omnipotence eventually drove him mad with power and the Guardians were forced to add a new weakness: one to wood. Yalan was later beaten to death by a number of peasants wielding wooden weapons. In his death throes, his spirit fused with his lantern and the lantern fused with the Starheart. This lantern later became the lantern of Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern. This story clearly illustrates the possibility of a Guardian being able to remove the yellow vulnerability from a ring.
B. The Weakness is Psychological in Nature
The second explanation is based upon an idea long used in literature and comic books. This idea has been used so many times in fact, I cannot pinpoint exactly from whence it first came. For the sake of this treatise, it will be referred to as “The Phantom Tollbooth Law of Ignorance.”
At the end of the book, the hero Milo is told that the quest he just completed was impossible. When he asks why nobody told him that before, it is pointed out to him that if he had known his quest was impossible, he would never have been able to finish it.
This is how Kyle’s ring seems to have worked within regards to the Yellow Weakness. In GL 53, Kyle fought Mongul, whose skin pigmentation is yellow and who was using a yellow-beamed energy weapon with no apparent problems. As Kyle held off Mongul’s blasts, the following exchange happened between Superman and Kyle.
Superman: “How are you shielding yourself? There’s a weakness against yellow in all Green Lantern’s rings.”
Kyle: “Well, that’s the first I’ve heard of it.”
Superman: “For that matter, Mongul’s pigmentation is yellow. You shouldn’t be able to affect him either.”
Kyle: “All of which is news to me…”
It has speculated before amongst Green Lantern fans on the Internet that the Yellow Weakness may be entirely psychological in effect. The ring is powered by the mind of the bearer. It has been shown in the past (with Kyle Rayner as well as Hal Jordan) that the ring can project objects based upon the bearer’s subconscious if they are not careful. With that as fact, it is not too far a stretch to think that a perceived weakness would affect the functioning of the ring.
Consider this: One of the first things that a Green Lantern is taught upon receiving a ring is that the ring cannot affect anything that is yellow. As they go through training, they are taught ways to deal with objects that are yellow in indirect manners. Throwing a boulder at a yellow spaceship with a large green catapult, for example. By the time a Lantern is fully qualified to monitor their sector or world unaided, the idea that yellow can hurt them is deeply entrenched in their minds.
Kyle Rayner did not receive any of this special training nor was he told of the ring’s weakness. True, Ganthet could have removed the weakness altogether. But there is also a strong case for the Yellow Weakness being at least partly psychological in nature. Kyle Rayner’s fighting Mongul is a good example of this. By the time Superman had found Kyle, he had already fought two supervillians including Mongul and had no problems with the color yellow. When Superman tells Kyle that what he is doing should be impossible with the ring, Kyle basically shrugs him off, noting his ignorance to the weakness and that apparently it isn’t really a problem for him. Kyle’s lack of formal training will play heavily in our next section.
II. The Beta Ring Lacks Many of the Alpha Ring Features
The Beta Ring is severely limited in the number of powers it provides compared to the Alpha Ring. Here is a short list, starting with the Beta Ring.
Energy Object Creation and Manipulation
Creation of an Energy Twin
Remote Control of Ring
Energy Object Creation and Manipulation
Protection from Mortal Harm
Creation of an Energy Twin
Remote Control of Ring
Again, there are two explanations as to why this is so.
A. The Yellow Weakness Also Adds Powers to The Ring.
Given that the Guardians were easily able to remove the Yellow Weakness from the ring of Yalan Gur with no fear of depowering him, this possibility can be safely ignored.
B. The Powers are There. Kyle is Just Ignorant As To How To Use Them.
This seems highly likely, considering several incidents.
1. The Man-Child Who Could Fly
In GL #51, Kyle never thought to try and use the ring to fly until it was suggested as being possible by his girlfriend, Alex. She told Kyle that the strange ring he had that put an odd costume on him made him look like a Green Lantern. The shock-stricken Kyle (well, how lucid would you be after a blue midget in a red dress gave you a green ring outside a nightclub?) then remembered the superhero Green Lantern, thought about flying and promptly began levitating off the ground.
2. Energy Double
While it has never been implicitly identified as a true energy double (IE: a green energy shell used to hold a person’s life force) Kyle has used structures that might be energy doubles in the past.
In JLA #15, a ring projection shaped like Kyle’s head appeared, warning Superman and Batman not to destroy the copy of the Philosopher’s Stone that Lex Luthor possessed since doing so would trigger a chain of events that would end with Darksied’s conquering the Earth.
In Green Arrow #126, Kyle used an energy double (albeit a very stretchy, Plastic-Man styled double) to question a jailed suspect. The double quickly changed into an Alien (as in James Cameron’s Alien) but still maintained Kyle’s voice.
3. Remote Control of Ring (or “Use the Force, Kyle”)
Until recently, Kyle showed no ability to control his ring from a remote distance as an old Corps member could. That changed in GL #124 when Kyle, captured by the Controllers and stripped of his ring, reached out with his mind and tried to will the ring to come to him before he was found by the Controllers flame-powered enforcers. This marks the first time that Kyle has use a power that has been limited before to the old Corps rings that could not be replicated by another power (as energy doubles could).
4. Protection From Mortal Harm
Kyle has been snuck up on and assaulted, near fatally wounded and just plain shot more times than someone with a ring that is supposed to prevent sneak attacks should. The most recent of these occurred in GL #120, when Kyle was shot in the back by an assassin. However, if we consider the effects of the Phantom Tollbooth Rule, the ring may not have this function because Kyle was never told that the ring would stop him from being seriously wounded.
5. AI / Ring Database
The ring has also shown no signs of having the sophisticated AI that the old Corps rings had nor of the database that a Green Lantern could access for information. However, this is quite easily explained. Imagine that the AI for each ring was a computer on a network, with the Central Power Battery of Oa acting as the main computer of the network. With the Main Battery’s destruction, the database should have been rendered in inoperable.
6. Other Powers
As for other powers Kyle has shown no inkling of being able to use, these are easily explained by the “Phantom Tollbooth” rule. For example, Kyle has never had any occasion where he could believe that his ring could be used to alter another person’s mind. Nor has he ever thought of using the ring to become invisible. That leaves only the ability to create duplicate rings from his ring, which is not all that unusual. The ability to create copies of a ring was limited to very experienced Green Lantern’s who had large amounts of willpower. It was several years before Hal Jordan was able to copy his ring unaided. I think we can all agree that Kyle lacks that will at this time.
III. Charging Differences.
The Alpha Ring provides unlimited power for 24 hours, after which point it must be recharged.
The Beta Ring functions more like a rechargeable power tool battery (like the battery for a cordless drill, for example). Once it is fully charged, it can be be used as much or as little as is needed until the ring needs to be recharged again. It can take days before it needs to be recharged, or hours depending on the amount of energy expended by the wielder.
It should be noted, as Desaad observed in GL #91, that the Beta Ring Battery appears to be wired directly into The Source (the energy field from which all metahuman power comes) as opposed to the Alpha Ring Batteries, which were indirectly wired into the Source through the Central Power Battery on Oa. The Beta Rings appear then to run on Direct Current, while the Alpha run on Alternating Current.
Taking the Phantom Tollbooth Rule into account, there is no logical reason to assume that Kyle Rayner’s ring is any different from those of the classic Green Lantern Corps, save that his Battery is plugged directly into The Source and that his yellow weakness has been removed.
A Special Thanks Must Be Made to The Green Lantern Corps Website. Their website was of invaluable help in compiling a complete list of Green Lantern powers and in research some key issues. Give them a look see!