Friday, June 23, 2017

Before The N'Garai There Were... The Triad!

Recently, we saw the menace of the deadly N'Garai--other-dimensional beings who once ruled the Earth in sadism and cruelty--return to threaten humanity once more, only to be thwarted by a certain amazing wall-crawler and his sword-wielding, Hyrkanian ally. The intention of their High Priest, Kulan Gath, was to open a Sa'arpool, the mystic gateway connecting their dimension to ours--the second of three such pools on Earth, and consequently destroyed in the attempt. With a race such as the N'Garai, you hold out hope that a Sa'arpool is the only means by which they can gain access to our world--but such proved not to be the case in their first incursion in late 1975, when one of their agents, Kierrok*, emerged from an ancient cairn a few miles from the X-Men's Westchester estate and launched a vicious attack against the team.

*Shades of "The Paradise Syndrome"!

When Charles Xavier attempted a mindprobe of Kierrok, he discovered some of the horror that the N'Garai represent.

Writer Chris Claremont, the creator of the N'Garai, went on to use these demons in not only Uncanny X-Men but also in Doctor Strange, with the race also making appearances in several other titles. Yet just over a year before their debut in the X-Men book, Claremont appeared to be giving the concept of the N'Garai a trial run in the pages of Giant-Size Dracula, though not by name. Instead, the elder gods were known as the Triad, with the oldest of them named Y'Garon. In that story, Y'Garon, like Gath, used a blood sacrifice to activate a Sa'arpool so that his "brothers"--trapped in another dimension by a holocaust that occurred eons ago--could return, and the Triad could once again become rulers of Earth. The similarities between the 1975 X-Men and 1974 GSD stories are obvious--while the similarity between the names "N'Garai" and "Y'Garon" is a bit beyond coincidental.

In the GSD story, it's of course Dracula who first faces the N'Garai the Triad--though for the most part, he deals with Y'Garon, a formidable opponent who begins his villainy by committing murders in the British town of Rutherton, murders that all leave the same telltale sign: all the bodies have been drained of blood. At first, Inspector Chelm of Scotland Yard suspects that Dracula, presumed dead, has returned; yet he feels compelled to bring in his assistant, psychometrist Kate Fraser, in order to dig more deeply into the circumstances of the case. It seems his instincts are correct, since it becomes apparent that none of the victims have risen again as vampires--and thus, someone other than a vampire is responsible.

Kate's only clue to the murderer is a strange object recovered from Annie Malcolm, the last young woman found dead--something that, when touched, gives Kate a vision of another attack from the distant past which involved Y'Garon. But it is an attack that will come to have ramifications for Dracula, as well.

And speaking of Dracula, he also becomes involved in the pursuit of the killer, though in his case it's to preserve his anonymity.

Meanwhile, Kate's investigation of Annie's death leads her to D'Aire Manor (what is it with Mr. Claremont and his fixation on apostrophes, anyway?), where she discovers not only a key to the object that Annie was carrying, but that Lord D'Aire seems adamant about keeping certain information from coming to light.

The paths of Dracula and Kate eventually cross, though in Dracula's case it's due to his need for blood and Kate being in close proximity. Fortunately for Kate, what saves her life is her uncanny resemblance to Dracula's former wife, Maria, whose life was taken by an enemy Turk named Turac--and then, fate intervenes, when the pair come across a dying man who warns Kate of danger from Y'Garon.

That evening, Kate has another psychometric vision of the warlord from the past who came into conflict with Y'Garon, as well as the young woman who is sacrificed in order to help attain the Triad's freedom--more similarities to Dracula's clash with Turac. Following the trance, Kate is visited and possessed by Y'Garon, who mesmerizes her into attempting to kill Dracula--but the attempt fails when Kate resists her instructions at the last moment, and she and Dracula begin to meet opposition headed by Lord D'Aire who wishes to reclaim Kate for Y'Garon.

Eventually, D'Aire gets the upper hand and captures Kate after arranging for her car to crash. But Y'Garon himself takes a hand in her recapture when Dracula confronts and deals with D'Aire--and when Y'Garon takes Dracula by surprise, his prowess proves to be too much for the vampire.

Upon awakening, Dracula heads directly to D'Aire Manor, where he makes sure that D'Aire pays the final price for defying him. But then, Y'Garon again surprises Dracula and manages to secure him well enough so that the ritual involving Kate can proceed undisturbed--and it's at that point that Dracula learns the full extent of Y'Garon's plans and how they involve both Kate and the Triad.

At the danger to Kate--to Maria, in Dracula's eyes--the vampire goes berserk and breaks free of his bindings (and apparently no longer affected by Y'Garon's incense). This time, Dracula's rage turns the tide, and it's Y'Garon (Turac, to Dracula) who falls. After that, it's curtains for "the brothers" (i.e., the Triad), when they become trapped in D'Aire Manor as the Sa'arpool explodes.

It's interesting to note that, for the purposes of this story, Claremont has limited the Triad to this one appearance. If there were a definite link between the Triad and the N'Garai, it would have been established in subsequent tales where the N'Garai began their rise as a threat; instead, only the concepts of the Sa'arpool and the "elder gods" have been brought forward, with a new threat in the form of the N'Garai incorporating them into their own profile. Of course, it was never established that the Triad were the sum total of the elder gods, so perhaps there are a lot of these elder beings banging on our dimensional doors, waiting to return; maybe they're part and parcel of the Dark Gods that Psyklop served.

The crisis over, Dracula's rage abates and he regains his faculties. But to keep his return a continued secret, he arranges for Kate to forget not only his own involvement in this affair but also Y'Garon's, instead planting in her mind the false memory that D'Aire was the insane culprit responsible for the murders. As for the N'Garai, it's clear that they ignored the fate of the Triad and resumed their attempts to cross over. As to their chances of success, perhaps it's not a question of if they'll succeed but when. After all, time is on their side.


Giant-Size Dracula #2

Script: Chris Claremont
Pencils: Don Heck
Inks: Frank McLaughlin
Letterer: John Costanza


Anonymous said...

This "dimensional holocaust" mentioned by Y'Garon actually fits in pretty well with the what was described in Thor Annual #10, in which a being known as the Demiurge destroyed most of the Elder Gods on primordial Earth. Some escaped Demiurge's wrath by fleeing into other realities, like Set and Chthon. Only Gaea, nurturer of life and future mother of Thor, was allowed to remain.
I think I deserve my own Cloak of Levitation for knowing that!
Or some kinda award.


Comicsfan said...

Dracula feels you deserve a little something, too, M.P., for failing to share this bit of information with him before his confrontation with Y'Garon; in fact, he's probably on his way to your residence right now, because he WANTS YOU TO SUFF... er, wants to see that you get your reward immediately. As Ben Grimm might say, I wouldn't start readin' any continued stories, pal!

Anonymous said...

Can't talk now nailing the windows shut