Monday, May 30, 2005

Looking To The Stars: One Ring To Confuse Them All: 2005.5 Edition

With Green Lantern: Rebirth concluded, a new Green Lantern series begun and with a lot of changes to the Green Lantern Mythos made, it seems that it is time for me to once again update one of the most popular features I’ve ever written: a guide to the little differences in the various Green Lantern rings. Particularly since it now seems the rings are not as different as we thought.

For the purposes of simplicity, the “different” rings shall be discussed using these four qualifying terms: Alpha Ring, Beta Ring and Omega Ring. A new section, describing the state of the ring now, Delta Ring, has been added to explain how the rings function in the wake of Green Lantern: Rebirth. Definitions follow.

Alpha Ring – Standard GL Corps. Ring

Description: The ring created by the Guardians of the Universe to serve as a weapon and tool for their Green Lantern Corps.

Power Source: The Central Power Battery on the Guardian’s home planet of Oa.

Weaknesses: The ring must be recharged every 24 hours. Also, the ring is unable to affect any object that is yellow or beings with yellow skin pigmentation. This weakness was reportedly programmed into the Central Power Battery itself, but the Guardians were not completely honest about the nature of the impurity. For more details upon this, see the Q&A following the ring definitions.

Powers of the Ring: The ring nominally allows the bearer to do anything, given sufficient willpower to accomplish it. The ring has a number or programmed safeguards that keep it from being used for certain tasks (such as killing) but these can be overridden by a Green Lantern with exceptional willpower or a mind that does not function in a normal way. Classified examples of standard ring uses are…

* Energy Object Creation and Manipulation
* Flight
* Limited Healing
* Protective Shields
* Space Travel (Produces whatever gases and temperature the bearer needs to breathe and live)
* Universal Translator
* Invisibility
* Astral Projection (through an energy double of the bearer)
* Mind Tampering
* Communication Device (with standard transmission devices or other Green Lantern rings)
* Remote Control of Ring
* Ring Duplication
* Ring AI/Database – Ring allows bearer to access information from the Central Power Battery on Oa, similar to a series of networked computers and a file server.
* Protection from Mortal Harm/ Life Support – An energy reserve in the ring allows it to protect its’ bearer from surprise attacks. Additionally, this charge can be used to sustain a Green Lantern if knocked unconscious in the void of space until help can be summoned. This charge has proven strong enough in the past as to prevent a Green Lantern from dying for many years.

Beta Ring – Alan Scott’s Ring

Description: Fashioned from the lantern of deceased Green Lantern Yalan Gur and bonded to the chaotic magical energy of the colossal gem known as The Starheart, train engineer Alan Scott survived a fatal wreck thanks to the magic of the lantern, Carving a ring from it, Alan used its’ magic to fight evil as The Green Lantern during WWII and into the present day.

While its’ powers and origin have changed slightly over the years, Alan Scott’s ring has always been treated as a magical artifact while the other GL rings have been products of science and advanced alien technology. A link to the original Green Lanterns was forged in Green Lantern #19 (2nd series), when it was revealed that rather than being forged from a piece of the magical Starheart itself, Alan Scott’s lantern was an old GL Lantern, lain dormant after the death of its’ owner, Yalan Gur.

Yalan Gur was the subject of an experiment by the Guardians to see if their best and brightest could handle the strain of omnipotence. It was revealed in this story that the yellow weakness of the Green Lantern rings was a programmed flaw, which was meant to push the Corps to greater versatility as well as insuring the Guardians had a way to deal with those who rebelled.

Gur, however, fell to the temptation of limitless power and became a despot in Ancient China. He was defeated after the Guardians programmed a new weakness into his battery, which made him vulnerable to the wooden weapons of the peasants he was ruling.

This dead battery was later charged and taken over by the Starheart; a gigantic gem made up of all the wild chaotic magic from the beginning of the universe, which the Guardians gathered up as part of their efforts to make the universe more organized.

Of course this story may be out of continuity now. It did occur before Zero Hour (which could have effectively removed this story from continuity) and recent events suggest that the idea of the yellow weakness being programmed by the Guardians is totally inaccurate.

Power Source: The Starheart; a gem made of pure chaos magic, created by The Guardians.

Weaknesses: The ring must be recharged every 24 hours. Also, the ring is unable to affect any object that is made of wood.

Powers of the Ring: Like the Alpha Ring, Alan Scott could use his ring to do anything he willed. However, since his ring was not “programmed” by the Guardians, it lacked some of the powers and the limits of the Alpha Ring. There was nothing, for example, to stop Alan Scott from killing aside from his own moral code. Alan Scott lamented this fact and spoke in one story about how he had the power to wish for every person in the world to become a decent human being, but how denying people the choice for good and evil would be more evil than the crimes he sought to stop. Regardless, aside from his time as The Sentinel when Alan Scott seemed to be a magician on par with Dr. Fate, Scott had shown the following abilities as a Green Lantern:

* Energy Object Creation and Manipulation
* Flight
* Healing
* Protective Shields
* Space Travel
* Universal Translator
* Invisibility
* Astral Projection
* Mind Tampering – Alan has never said how he knows the ring can do this, but he has referred to avoiding using said power.

Omega Ring -Kyle Rayner’s Ring, Pre-Rebirth

Description: Forged from the broken remains of the ring of rogue Green Lantern Hal Jordan, all but one of the Guardians gave their life force to create a new Green Lantern ring. The last Guardian, Ganthet, went to Earth to try and convince the former Green Lantern Guy Gardner to use this ring and to stand against Hal, who was now wielding all the energy of the Central Power Battery. Gardner refused, saying he did not want to bail out the Guardians now that they realized he was the better man. With not much time left, Ganthet was forced to give the ring to an untested youth and unlikely hero- an artist named Kyle Rayner, in the hopes that his strong imagination would prove able to weave around Jordan’s strong will.

Power Source: Lacking a connection to The Central Power Battery, Kyle’s battery originally drew power directly from “The Source”; a cosmic energy field responsible for creating The New Gods and empowering certain other energy fields throughout he universe.

With the Central Power Battery reforged and repowered as of Green Lantern #150 and the “Legacy: The Last Will And Testament of Hal Jordan” graphic novel, it appeared from that time afterward that Kyle’s battery as well as that of John Stewart, were drawing their power from the new Central Power Battery.

Weaknesses: Unlike the Alpha Rings, the Omega Ring was not originally connected to the Central Power Battery of Oa. As such, it lacked access to the information databases the Alpha Ring drew upon and was unable to communicate with the other, now dormant, Green Lantern rings across the universe. Still, the Omega Ring made up for these flaws in two important respects.

First, it lacked the yellow weakness of the Alpha Rings. The exact reasons for this would be explained in Green Lantern: Rebirth but for years it was assumed that without the Central Power Battery, there was nothing to impose limits on the direct source of the Green Lantern power.

Second, unlike the Alpha Ring, the Omega Ring did not need to be recharged on a daily basis. The Omega Ring functioned as a normal power tool; being able to lie unused for days, slowly draining its’ supply until recharged.

Powers of the Ring: At first appearance, the Omega Ring lacked many of the powers of the Alpha Ring. While Kyle Rayner would later gain some of the powers as he became more experienced in using the ring, he started out very limited in terms of ability, though unhindered by the yellow weakness and 24 hour time time-limit of previous Lanterns. Indeed, Kyle only displayed three powers in his first outing as Green Lantern…

* Energy Object Creation and Manipulation
* Flight
* Protective Shields

Despite this shaky start, Kyle did wind up developing nearly ALL of the powers of the Alpha Ring. This suggests that Kyle’s low power levels were more the result of ignorance and a lack of training than any limit within the ring itself. Consider the list of Alpha Ring powers and how many of them Kyle later used…

Limited Healing – In JLA #17, Kyle says he can use his ring to heal a bullet wound after being shot. In Green Lantern: Rebirth #2, his internal dialogue explains how he could use the ring to make stitches to sew together a cut. Also, having this power would explain his quick recovery from other various injuries he picked up in the line of fire that would have required explanation to those not aware of his secret identity.

Space Travel/ Life Support – Too many examples to count them all, but the first time was in the wake of the destruction of the Planet Oa in GL #0

Universal Translator – Very likely the first time he did this was in Green Lantern #56, when Kyle makes his first contact with an alien world. There have been countless examples since then, unless Kyle has been very lucky about finding aliens who either knew English or had their own translation devices.

Invisibility – Kyle used the ring to mask his presence in GL #154, as he confronted the man responsible for beating his friend Terry Berg in prison.

Astral Projection – JLA #15, where an energy projection of Kyle’s face was able to deliver a warning to Superman from some distance away. Also, in last GL #174, Kyle communicated with the rest of his Corps with an energy projection of his thoughts.

Mind Tampering – Used by Hal sparingly to erase memories in Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn II, Kyle has never used this ability despite experimenting with telepathic abilities during his time as Ion.

Communication Device – See countless JLA issues where Kyle stays in touch with the team without an apparent separate communicator.

Remote Control of Ring – GL #124. Kyle summons his ring to his hand as he is being chased by the Controllers’ Effigy squad. He has since then programmed his ring so that it will always return to his hand if it is forcibly taken from him.

Ring Duplication – This power has never been demonstrated and, apparently, is impossible with an Omega Ring. Kyle used the Alpha Ring given to him by a young Hal Jordan after the events of “Emerald Knights” (Green Lantern 100-106) to create rings for the new GL Corps that he was creating in The New Corps (2-part special miniseries) and had to take one spare Alpha Ring Copy as a master in edition to his own Omega Ring. Ring Duplication is apparently impossible, as we can assume that Kyle would have at least tried to make a copy of his own ring just for the sake of trying after the events of Emerald Knights. Or can we? Kyle may have just assumed his ring was too different to have ever tried it.

Ring AI/Database – Never demonstrated, but with the lack of the Central Battery “Hub”, this makes sense.

Protection from Mortal Harm/ Life Support – This emergency power supply is apparently missing from the Omega Ring, as great play was made of this in GL #100, where Kyle and a young Hal Jordan switch rings when fighting Sinestro, so as to catch the villain off-guard. Considering how many times Kyle has been fatally wounded and nearly killed (his being sniped by an assassin in GL #120, to give one example), it would seem likely he doesn’t have this power.

Going through this list, we see only two powers that Kyle has not demonstrated directly in some capacity before Green Lantern: Rebirth; a ring AI and an Emergency Power supply. Kyle created an Emergency Power Supply of sorts for the ring in GL #150. As of Green Lantern Secret Files 2005, Kyle’s ring has developed an AI.

This suggests that Kyle’s ring has been changed to become a Standard Alpha Ring, further suggesting that the only true difference between Kyle’s Omega Ring and the Alpha Rings was the lack of two features, caused by the lack of the Central Power Battery. This means that only three things now separate the Omega Ring from the Alpha Ring, assuming these features have not been removed following the Guardians reprogramming of Kyle’s ring.

1. DNA Lock – The Omega ring only works for Kyle Rayner, a member of his family (one of Kyle’s descendants used the ring in the future) and, because it was his ring for many years and it still holds a “memory” of him, Hal Jordan. Reportedly, Kyle can will the ring to function for other people as well.

2. Emergency Energy Supply – In GL #150, Kyle programmed his ring so that it would always have a small reserve of energy. The ring would still need to be recharged to be at full power, but the ring could never really run out of energy. This could be tied into the reconstruction of the Central Power Battery and be considered a substitute for the Protection From Mortal Harm energy reserve.

3. Boomerang Effect – Kyle programmed his ring in GL #150 so that it can never be taken from him by force. While a bit redundant when he can just pull the ring back to his hand at will, this makes the process automatic and would protect Kyle from having his ring stolen by a mind-controlling enemy.

Delta Ring – All Green Lantern Rings, Post-Rebirth

Description: As of Green Lantern #1, it seems that all GL Rings have reverted back to their original Alpha Ring state in most respects. It has yet to be seen if some of the features of the Omega Ring (DNA lock, etc) have been added into all of the rings or if they have been removed outright.

Power Source: All Green Lantern rings now draw energy from the new Central Power Battery on the planet Oa. It has been revealed that rather than drawing off “The Source” itself, the Guardians actually harvest the collected willpower of every being in the universe as a power source. The Central Power Battery collects and harnesses this power and turns it into a tangible energy that manifests itself on the emotional prism as green light.

Weaknesses: It was revealed in Rebirth that the reason for the Green Lantern’s famed weakness against yellow was due to another purpose for the Central Power Battery. In addition to collecting the willpower of all intelligent life in the universe, it also acted as a prison for a being called Parallax. Parallax was a monster made up of pure fear, who fed off the fears of other beings. The Guardians imprisoned Parallax during their early efforts at organizing the universe and found that their battery made an effective prison. Nearly perfect in fact, save that Parallax was still able to influence the energy holding him, making it ineffective against the color of fear- yellow.

With Parallax imprisoned again in the new power battery, it appears that the Green Lanterns once again have a weakness to yellow. However, it also seems that this weakness can be overcome by Green Lanterns of sufficient experience and willpower. In Green Lantern #1, Hal Jordan and John Stewart are able to slice through a spaceship of yellow-metal by allowing themselves to feel fear and then overcoming it.

The Delta rings also appear to function as per the Omega ring in regards to recharging. The new rings are able to give an estimated amount of how much charge remains inside them (as of Green Lantern #1), suggesting that they now act like a standard power tool rather than as a limitless abyss of power for a limited time.

Powers of the Ring: Thus far, the Delta Rings appear to have all the same powers as the Alpha Ring.

Questions and Answers

Q: How many Green Lanterns are there now and where did their rings come from?

A: Ignoring Alan Scott (who is not officially part of the Green Lantern Corps) there are five active Green Lanterns with active rings. The rings came from the following sources…

Hal Jordan: Delta Ring; copy of his original ring, given to best friend Oliver Queen.

John Stewart: Delta Ring; given to Kyle Rayner by Batman. Presumed by some scholars to be retrieved from Anarky, who stole the ring from Jade, who got it from Kyle Rayner, who got it from a time-displaced Hal Jordan.

Guy Garder: Delta Ring; copied from Hal Jordan’s current ring.

Kyle Rayner: Delta Ring; his original Omega ring modified to function as a standard Alpha Ring, possibly with some added features.

Kilowog: Delta Ring, forged new by The Guardians.

Q: How exactly did the Yellow Impurity work and what does it have to do with Parallax?

A: As mentioned earlier, Parallax was a being made up of pure fear who lived off the fears of others. The Guardians imprisoned Parallax inside The Central Power Battery on Oa, hoping that the Battery, which collected the willpower of every being in the universe would be strong enough to contain Parallax.

While the prison was strong enough to hold Parallax’s physical form in check, Parallax was still able to make his presence felt through the energy released from the battery. The Rings the Guardians had fashioned to channel this energy proved inefficient against yellow- the color on the emotional spectrum that Parallax drew energy from. In order to counteract the risk that Parallax might influence their agents, The Guardians required all members of their Green Lantern Corps to be completely fearless.

This would nearly prove to the the Corps downfall, as Parallax was eventually able to find a way to influence the Lanterns through their rings without praying on their fears. Their total fearlessness left them unable to feel Parallax’s subtle influence and gave him free reign over their minds and bodies. Only Kyle Rayner, who had become a Green Lantern without being tested for fearlessness, felt another presence trying to influence his mind. It was he who discovered Parallax’s long-forgotten origins and determined that Parallax could be overcome by recognizing the feeling of fear and then working past them.

All of Hal Jordan’s acts as “Parallax” during Zero Hour and up until Final Night, are colored by Parallax’s influence, having fully taken over Hal’s mind during the moment of great stress brought about by the destruction of his hometown.

Q: Does this mean Hal has been totally absolved of his actions?

A: Far from it. Hal still blames himself for falling prey to Parallax, though the rest of the Corps. seems to have been quick to forgive him as have most of his old friends in the superhero community. Some, like Batman, are still unconvinced that Hal was being influenced and are watching him carefully.

Q: How well does the “Hal as Parallax” possessed story stand up to past stories?

A: Pretty well, actually.

In Zero Hour, Hal/Parallax was working toward a goal of using the Guardians’ power to reboot time and rebuild the universe. While Hal stated he wanted to make a universe free of pain, Parallax could have used the opportunity to create a universe where fear ruled supreme.

Most of the stories between Zero Hour and Final Night showed that Hal was regaining some small measure of his sanity back and was more concerned with righting wrongs than in continuing his big master plan. Even his actions in Final Night, sacrificing himself to save the world, suggest that Hal was resisting Parallax’s influence except when under great stress, such as in the heat of battle.

Q: What’s all this about Kyle’s role in Rebirth being pre-ordained?

A: In JLA #23, Kyle was told by Dream of the Endless that he would one day surpass Hal Jordan because of the one thing he knew that Hal did not: fear. This came to pass in Rebirth, as Kyle was the only Green Lantern to feel Parallax’s influence through the ring, by the simple fact that Kyle knew what it was to be afraid and resist fear.

Q: What is the status of Hal’s secret identity?

A: In Green Lantern #1, it is suggested that Hal has been presumed dead for the few years since Coast City. Ditto the Green Lantern who used to watch over Coast City. As such, it seems that Hal’s secret identity is still a secret.

Q: I thought Hal had been outed to the world at large as a killer and a murderer?

A: This point is a bit unclear and might be glossed over were all the references to this point not a part of some key Green Lantern stories.

In the Parallax special during The Final Night, Hal spoke with his old mechanic and sidekick Tom Kalmaku, who was working on a book about Hal’s life and that it would remind everyone of the hero he really was. Tom made reference to not believing a word that was said about what he had done.

Later, in Legacy: The Last Will and Testament of Hal Jordan it was suggested that he couldn’t find a buyer for the book because everyone he showed it to wanted a trashy tell-all about a fallen hero and not a story of true heroism Tom had written.

One way around this might be to suggest that Tom, who was drunk during the time of his ranting about the book, had not actually submitted the book to any publishers but was more upset about how one of his closest friends and a man he had admired had turned out to be everything that everyone said he is and he was worried more about what would be asked of him in telling his story. As for “what he heard”, it is more than likely some of the superhero community would have contacted Tom after “Zero Hour”, warning him to contact them should Hal ever come back to talk to him.

Q: Is this kind of thing par for the course for DC Comics resurrections?

A: Well, Carter Hall came back from the dead without ever having really died. Superman is a big question mark. And Oliver Queen is quite nicely managing a secret identity now despite having been a federally hunted fugitive, operating several years in Seattle without a real secret identity and having his name and picture splashed across the cover of the Daily Planet as a hero for giving his life to save Metropolis. So… yes.

Any more questions? You know how to e-mail me. And I’m sure there’s a few questions about Green Lantern I have yet to answer…

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt Website.

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