Review: Ampney Crucis Investigates… Vile Bodies

Writer: Ian Edginton

Artist: Simon Davis

Published by 2000AD, Out January 19

Meet Lord Ampney Crucis: a jolly good fellow about town, who’s absolutely the chap you need at your side if you’re encountering the forces of evil…

If you had to sum up the Ampney Crucis series in a phrase, it would be “Lord Peter Wimsey meets H.P. Lovecraft” and while that encapsulates much about what works so well in Ian Edginton and Simon Davis’s late 1920s series, they’re only a couple of elements that lead to its success.

The time period is a fascinating one in terms of English society: the Great War had decimated a generation of the eligible male population, and those that had survived the War had lost some respect for the lords that had led them for so long. There were those of the aristocracy – like Ampney – who had fought in the trenches, and forged bonds with those who would otherwise have been their social inferiors. These relationships can be found in Dorothy L. Sayers’ Peter Wimsey stories (Wimsey’s butler Bunter is integral to his master’s succeses), and in the early Saint stories by Leslie Charteris, where Simon Templar’s butler Orace has served alongside his toff master just as Eddie Cromwell has Ampney.

On the other side of the equation, it’s also the heyday of the buffoon aristocracy, epitomised by Bertie Wooster in P.G. Wodehouse’s tales, and both Ampney and Peter Wimsey use this caricature to their advantage.

But Edginton and Davis take things one step further, adding in horrors from beyond time and space into the equation. We’re very much in the realms of the Cthulhu mythos here, with vile abominations making their way into our world through the weaknesses of men – whether it’s a desire for increased potency, the urge to wage war, or the desperate longing of mothers who have lost their sons. Davis’s painted style adds a layer of horror, sometimes giving precise detail, other times just the broad strokes, adding an immediacy to the storytelling.

Verdict: Two great tales – let’s have some more soon!  8/10

Paul Simpson

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