Monday, March 1, 2004

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

When last we left off our discussion of Ring Lore, we discussed the differences between the three various recorded types of Green Lantern rings and Kyle Rayner's development as a ring bearer.

* Alpha - The Standard Corps Ring
* Beta - The Alan Scott Ring
* Omega - The Kyle Rayner Ring

While we're on the subject, one error from last week I should note: due to a production error, the list of powers for the Beta ring was not printed. However, since the list was going to be exactly the same as the Alpha Ring plus a note that "Aside from being vulnerable to Wood, Alan has shown no limits at all". So there.

Getting back to the topic at hand, the Alpha Ring, as we discussed last week, had a wide variety of powers that the Omega Ring seemingly lacked.

Alpha Ring Powers

* 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.

Omega Ring Powers (that Kyle showed in his first appearance)

* Energy Object Creation and Manipulation
* Flight
* Protective Shields

This makes Kyle look severely underpowered. However, lacking the advanced training that a Corps Member usually received, Kyle was forced to learn some of the power and abilities he had on the fly. Indeed, it didn't occur to him to use the ring to fly until his girlfriend Alex recognized his costume as that of a Green Lantern and told Kyle that the ring he was given should let him fly. He figured out how to make simple shields and energy objects shortly after that.

Going down the list of Alpha Ring Powers and consulting the handy Guide To Kyle Rayner as well as my own collection of all things Green Lantern related in the last few years, we can make a reference list of when Kyle used his ring to replicate certain powers.

* Limited Healing - In JLA #17, Kyle says he can use his ring to heal a bullet wound after being shot. Also, it would explain his quick recovery from other various cuts and scrapes that would have required explaining.

* Space Travel/ Life Support - Too many examples to count, but the first time was probably 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. Countless examples since then.

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

* Astral Projection - JLA #15, where an energy projection of Kyle's face warned Superman not to destroy the Philosopher's Stone. Also, in last week's GL #174, where 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 Controller's Effigy squad.

* 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 Hal
Jordan after the events of "Emerald Knights" to create rings for the new GL Corps that he was creating in "The New Corps" and had to take one spare Alpha Ring Copy as a master in edition to his own Omega Ring.

* 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. Also, 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 four powers that Kyle has not demonstrated in some capacity. The lack of a Ring AI is explained by the lack of a Central Power Battery to act as a database. Mind Tampering may not be impossible, but would likely be distasteful to a free-spirit like Kyle who would avoid such options even if he knew they were possible. 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.

As for the emergency power supply, no logical answers can be determined from the text. Perhaps this is tied into the removable yellow impurity (see GL #19, where the yellow weakness is confirmed as being removable) or perhaps it was, like the Ring AI, tied to the Central Power Battery, whose network could have had the capability to monitor every individual Green Lantern and determine if they needed assistance?

Regardless, looking at this list the differences between the Omega Ring and Alpha Ring are not very great. In fact, were it not for the ability to copy itself and the emergency power supply they might well be the same ring but with a few features added ( the DNA lock that allows only Kyle or a family member to use the ring) or taken away ( the yellow weakness, and 24 hour time limit)

However, things changed again in the wake of Green Lantern #150 and "Legacy: The Last Will And Testament Of Hal Jordan". The latter of these stories restored the planet Oa and its' Central Power Battery in physical form, though the
Battery itself lay dormant. Kyle Rayner recharged the Battery and restored the Guardians to life, giving up the power he had gained as Ion, after absorbing the power that Hal Jordan had taken to become Parallax. At the end of the same issue, Kyle revealed a new costume and two changes that he made to his ring before giving up the Ion power...

"This bad boy can't get away from me anymore. Anyone takes it off, it comes right back."

A seemingly needless addition if Kyle can simply will the ring back to his hand at will already. Though ill-defined here, perhaps he has simply made the process automatic, so he can focus all his will on using the ring from a distance while the ring itself comes home.

"It also doesn't need to be recharged. I do have to charge it to get it to full power, but it always has a reserve amount. More than enough to get me out of almost anything."

Ill-defined and, to put it in the terms of a gamer, "twinkish", this power as given eliminates one of the weaknesses of a Green Lantern. Indeed, the only one Kyle had left - the fact that his power was limited. Then again, taken in another tact, might this mean that Kyle restored the Emergency Power Supply that powered the ring's Protection From Mortal Harm and Life Support features as well as allowing himself the ability to tap into this reserve in an emergency?

The restoration of the Central Power Battery raises another question; with Ganthet once again on Oa and the battery operational (Kyle did recharge his ring from it GL #169), is it possible for the Ring AI/Database to be restored? Presumably if the ring is "smart" enough for Kyle to program it to return to him automatically, it can still support the feature and the Central Power Battery, as far as we know, is no different than it was before.

And here is another question; even if Kyle IS unable to copy his ring now, there is one Alpha Ring that should be able to copy itself that is still active and on the hand of John Stewart. What then, is to stop Kyle from mass producing the rings again and giving them out to new recruits… such as the old GL's recruited at the beginning of Ben Raab's run? If nothing else, Ganthet is there and can probably make some new rings when he isn't busy watching the Guardian children. Kids have to sleep sometime, right?

In conclusion, it appears that we are upon the verge of having a new Green Lantern Corps just as it was ten years ago, before Hal
Jordan's madness. The capabilities are there, even if the writing team has yet to achieve them. Still, it cannot be denied that while we GL fans may lack the Corps we have long wanted, Judd Winick and Ben Raab have done much to take things in that direction. But will the Corps fly again sometime soon with new rings, free of the Yellow weakness and unburdened by the need to recharge their rings completely? Only time will tell.

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

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