Monday, February 23, 2004

Looking To The Stars: One Ring To Confuse Them All - Part One

A few weeks back, Mathan Erhardt wrote a review of Green Lantern #173 , in which he talked about some of the continuity problems in the book since Ron Marz’s departure from the series. While most of his complaints centered upon characterization, there was one comment that got my attention…

“I was (also) under the impression that one of the things Kyle changed about his ring post-Ion was the need to charge.”

This is, I admit, a bit obtuse a statement to any who isn’t familiar with the last 30 issues of so of Green Lantern and the changes that Kyle Rayner (one of the two current Ring Bearers) made to his in Green Lantern #150. Perhaps the most impressive weapon in all of comics-literature, The Green Lantern Power Ring has gone through a lot of evolution since the days when Alan Scott protected the streets of Gotham with a ring that could manipulate metals.

Over the next few weeks, we shall examine how the limits and capabilities of the Ring (and indeed, the individual Green Lanterns) has changed dramatically within the last few years of the book. Before we can do that, however, we have to define the three types of Green Lantern rings and how they have appeared standardly.

The three rings shall henceforth be defined as Alpha Ring (Standard GL Corps Ring), Beta Ring (Alan Scott’s Ring) and Omega Ring (Kyle Rayner’s Ring).

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, in order to protect the universe.

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.

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 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 transmissions 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.

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 (current series), when it was revealed that rather than being forged from a piece of the magical Starheart, his 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 issue 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 batter was later taken over by the Starheart; a gem made up of all the wild chaotic magic from the beginning of the universe, which the Guardians gathered up in order to make the universe more organized.

Power Source: The Starheart; a gem made of 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. Also, the ring lacks many of the Alpha Ring powers that are dependent upon the Guardian’s programming and the link to the Central Power Battery.

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. Alan Scott lamented this fact, and often talked about how he could 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, Scott has shown the following abilities.

• 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

Description: Forged from the broken remains of the ring of Green Lantern Hal Jordan, the last Guardian Ganthet went to Earth to try and convince the former GL Guy Gardner (a rival to Jordan)to use it to stand against the rogue lantern, now armed with the power of the Central Power Battery of Oa. 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 the untested and unlikely artist 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 draws power directly from “The Source”; a cosmic energy field responsible for creating The New Gods and empowering certain other energies throughout he universe.

Weaknesses: Unlike the Alpha Ring, the Omega Ring is not connected to the Central Power Battery of Oa. As such, it lacks access to the information databases of the Alpha Ring and is unable to communicate with the other, now dormant, Green Lantern rings.

Still, for what it lacks in the versatility of the Alpha Ring, the Omega Ring does make up in two important respects

First, it lacks the yellow weakness of the Alpha Ring, confirming that the weakness is indeed a programmable event in the rings; a point of contention among many GL fans for years. Also, unlike the Alpha Ring, the Omega Ring does not need to be charged on a daily basis. The Omega Ring functions 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 (which we will discuss in Part Two of this series), he started out very limited in terms of ability, though unhindered by the yellow weakness and 24 hour time limit.

· Energy Object Creation and Manipulation

· Flight

· Limited Healing

· Protective Shields

· Space Travel

· Universal Translator

· Communication Device

As we can see, the rings were all enhanced and limited in varying respects and indeed, had different power sources. Still, what is equally amazing is that each of the three ring bearers has shown the ability to use their powers without the ring through one bond or another.

· Perhaps most troublingly, Alan Scott would switch back and forth between needing the ring for his powers and not needing it, having a weakness to wood or not, calling himself Green Lantern or Sentinel and changing his apparent age several times throughout the course of the late 90’s / early 00’s.

· Hal Jordan, perhaps the best known example of this, was able to draw the entirety of the Central Power Battery into his being and renamed himself Parallax.

· Years later, Kyle Rayner would take this energy, released at Hal Jordan’s death along with energy he had drained away during “Circle of Fire”, and absorb it into himself to become the nigh-powerful Ion.

Still, the lack of the ring did little to change the powers. Alan Scott remained the same magical man, no matter how old he looked, what his name was or whether or not a wooden stake could kill him where bullet’s failed. Likewise, Jordan had much the same powers as a Green Lantern as Parallax; he just had access to much more energy and no qualms about doing potentially dangerous things such as altering the flow of time.

The exception to this is Kyle Rayner, who experienced some rather drastic changes after his bout with omnipotence and not needing a ring. However, this and his development of new abilities using the ring is very complicated and is a whole column unto itself.

How very fortunate that I have another one planned then, isn’t it?

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

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