With Green Lantern: Rebirth drawing a lot of attention as it clarifies and redefines the Green Lantern mythos, it seems that it is time for me to update one of the most popular features I've ever written: a guide to the little differences in the various Green Lantern rings.
For the purposes of simplicity, the rings shall be discussed using these three qualifying terms: Alpha Ring, Beta Ring and Omega Ring. 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, we found out recently, programmed into the Central Power Battery itself. The yellow weakness is apparently no longer an issue, as the new Central Power Battery does not have this weakness, according to John Stewart in Green Lantern: Rebirth #2.
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
• Limited Healing
• Protective Shields
• Space Travel (Produces whatever gases and temperature the bearer needs to breathe and live)
• Universal Translator
• 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.
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 itself, 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 battery 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 as part of their efforts to make the universe more organized.
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 Sentinel when Alan Scott seemed to be a magician on par with Dr. Fate, Scott has shown the following abilities as a Green Lantern:
• Energy Object Creation and Manipulation
• Protective Shields
• Space Travel
• Universal Translator
• 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 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 GL 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 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 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 appears that Kyle's battery as well as those of the other Green Lanterns, are drawing their power from the new Central Power Battery..
Weaknesses: Unlike the Alpha Ring, the Omega Ring was not 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. Still, the Omega Ring made up for these flaws in two important respects.
First, it lacked 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.
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
• 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, he 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 explaining to friends and neighbors.
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 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 Controller's 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" 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, 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 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 directly 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. Or can we? Kyle may have just assumed his ring was too different to have ever tried it.
As for the emergency power supply, no logical answers can be determined from the text. Perhaps it was, like the Ring AI, tied to the Central Power Battery whose network had the capability to monitor every individual Green Lantern at once 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)
Indeed, in the wake of the reforging of the Central Power Battery, it seems that the Yellow Weakness is no longer a concern for ANY Green Lantern, regardless of whether or what ring they use. In Green Lantern: Rebirth #2, John Stewart confirmed that the yellow weakness hadn't been an issue since the destruction of the old Central Power Battery. This confirms that the Yellow Weakness was a programmed flaw and that the new battery does not impose such limits on Green Lanterns.
This means that only three things now separate the Omega Ring from the Alpha 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 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.
Currently, the number of ring bearers as of Green Lantern: Rebirth #2 and where they got their ring from is as follows.
John Stewart: Alpha Ring. His ring is an emergency spare that was given to him by Kyle Rayner, who originally got it from a young Hal Jordan.
Oliver Queen: Alpha Ring. Hal Jordan's best friend, he was given a "for emergency only" ring by Hal Jordan.
Guy Gardner: Alpha Ring. Former Green Lantern, he recently got a new ring after a copy inexplicably split off of Oliver Queen's ring and flew onto his hand.
Killowog: Alpha Ring. Formerly dead Green Lantern, restored to life by Kyle Rayner. When last we saw him he was ringless, helping Kyle along with other former Lanterns in his effort to bring down the intergalactic Black Circle crime syndicate from the inside. As of GL: Rebirth #2, he is back in uniform with an active ring, presumably provided by Ganthet, the last Guardian.
Alan Scott: Beta Ring.
Kyle Rayner: Omega Ring.
Any questions? You know how to e-mail me.
Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt Website.