"It's time to show these cornershop Napoleons the true meaning of fear" - Ampney Crucis
Not just one foppish occult detective this month, but two. Ampney Crucis Investigates... Vile Bodies is a slim volume containing two arcs, "Vile Bodies" which introduces Ampney, his manservant and his background and "The End Of The Pier Show" which showcases his intelligence and abilities in greater detail. Ampney Crucis Investigates is set between the wars in the 1920's. Ampney's background is that he's a member of the upper classes who fought in World War One. During his time there he saw something grotesque, huge and demonic looming over a battlefield that basically broke his brain. On returning home with severe PTSD and bouts of full on madness, he found he had the ability "sense the prescence of beings beyond imagining" and along with his trusty and gleefully stereotypical working class butler Eddie Cromwell he begins to investigate various magical threats to the Britain of all classes. The writer is Ian Edginton and the art is by Simon Davis, and once again I am forced to admit this painted artwork looks lovely with Davis being able to switch between mundane normality, fantastically expressive portraiture and freaky magical goings on with equal ability. This book was also a gift from my good friend Lucy. Cheers Lucy! Anyway let's begin.
VILE BODIES - The story begins with a woman being chased through some corridors by a giant wasp like creature, which she then blows away with a shotgun. Then we're thrown into the nightmare that was The Somme in 1916 World War I. A soldier missing a leg is trying to crawl to safety when suddenly a huge, repulsive monstrous, lamprey like creature appears, towering over the battlefield and it sucks the soldier up and spits him out as a skeleton. We see Ampney screaming his head off as he witnesses this, then cut to him in the now, screaming as he wakes from his nightmare.
|Ampney's recurring nightmare.|
Cromwell: "She's fine, guv. In the pink. Well apart from the fact she's just topped her husband!"
So they drive to Surrey, to the local police station. Before Ampney can enter he's greeted by a portly chap called Ambrose Chutney, a school mate Ampney looked out for during their time then. He jovially takes his leave and Ampey enters the police station and greets Lady Wykes who turns out to be the woman being chased by a monster at the start of the story.
|Ampney meets with Calliope Wykes.|
Calliope: "I can't tell anyone - they'll think I'm mad. It's the gallows or the asylum. You're the only one I can turn to save me Ampney. My life is in your hands."
That night Ampney and Cromwell break into the Wyke's manor for a look around. Suddenly a huge bee-like creature bursts in. They battle with it, Ampney manages to break off it's stinger, but the bee-creature seems more intent on something else, and vomits an acid substance over a pile of papers on the table, before departing. Ampney says it was sent to try and cover something up and notes what's left of the papers is a correspondence between Lord Wykes and Sir Redvers regarding the Wyke's sex life. With not enough evidence to help her Ladyship they decide to go and confront Redvers.
|Humungous Mutant Bee's. The worst kind of bee.|
They arrive at Redver's estate and everything is covered in thick vines and foliage. They drive right up to the manor house and go inside. There is a room full of billions of bees and then they bump into a nude lady. She has a bowl of fluid which she drinks from then uses her mouth to pass the liquid into the mouth of a man hanging upside down from the ceiling, bound tightly in vines. There are quite a few other women feeding similarly trapped men.
|I have nothing to add to this image.|
Ampney: "Your aphrodisiac turned him into a monster!"
Redvers: "He already was. I simply let what was inside, out!"
He then realises Ampney was the war hero who came home "broken and barking". He tells Ampney to come with him and "please don't be so vulgar as to make me resort to threats." Ampney doesn't want to leave Cromwell, but Cromwell, now surrounded by nude women, says he can "handle this lot". So Ampney follows Redvers further into the house.
Redvers say he's spent the last ten years in search of some "higher truth". He says nothing has changed in the wordl after the Great War. "This species is no longer fit to steer it's fate". Ampney wonders who Redvers wants in charge. Redvers introduces him to a huge, tentacled cactus thing. He say he is her prophet and Ampney can be her first apostle as he is the first person to lay eyes on her and not go mad.
|Redvers the loony.|
He tells Ampney he was travelling across the South Pole when he had an accident that lead him to an altar with seeds upon it. He ate the seeds and they took root in him, showing him the truth of the Old Gods.
Redvers: "They're not evil, but some abstract other. They can guide us, make us one mind, one purpose".
He says the whole world would be at peace and with just a few people needing to be sacrificed to the God to appease it (which does sound a lot like the "Jasmine" plotline in Angel season four...). Crucis disagrees with Redver's plan for mankinds and as he tears the vines out of Redvers chest he yells:
Ampney: "You're right, things must change. But not to kow-tow to a bloody aspidistra!"
He lands close to Cromwell, who is hanging from the ceiling. Ampney helps him down and they hear artillery fire. They escape outside and find Ambrose Chutney overseeing the clearing of the estate with gasmasked troops killing and burning as they go. Ambrose tells Ampney they'd been watching the house for a while, but Ampney's involvement forced them, ie: The Government, to act. The soldiers finish things off by setting the manor house on fire.
|Time to kill it with fire.|
Mystery Man: "For now Lord Ampney Crucis has the potential to become our greatest ally or enemy. We must wait and see what he chooses".
And on that sinister note, the arc ends.
THE END OF THE PIER SHOW - The story begins with Ampney playing host to his three aunts who nursed him back to sanity after his experience seeing the lamprey God thing during his time in the trenches. Cromwell brings the post and there is a postcard for him amongst the letters. It's from an old army buddy called Fred Chipps who has been dead since his first day on the front when he was shot in the eye.
The action then moves to Blackpool and over an image of people enjoying themselves on the pier is a voice over of a spell being cast, a chant to "Hecate". Rising up from everyone is black smoke which turns into ghostly forms that congregate over a house with four naked women in it performing the spell.
|The inciting incident.|
Outside a couple are walking down the street and the woman starts to say she feels "queer". Her boyfriend thinks she's drunk, but she says she hardly had a drop. Then she takes out a hairpin and stabs him in the neck with it and begins to speak in German. Meanwhile, Mrs. Chipps has recovered and admits what she and her friends did. They didn't think it was fair or right their boys mouldering away overseas.
Mrs. Chipps: "So we decided to do something about it. Me and a few friends, lost mothers to lost boys. We decided to bring them home."
And the action cuts to outside where the previously happy crowds are fighting each other with rage. Ampney says they've been "torn from whatever peace the afterlife gave them" and returned to all they know, raw hatred and fear. "What have I done?" says Mrs. Chipps. But Ampney kindly doesn't accuse her. She asks what she can do to make it right and Ampney says he wants her to assemble her "cosy coven" again. Two are nearby, but Francis is on the pier at the coconut shy.
|I've been to Blackpool, I've seen Hen parties more violent than this.|
Fred: "Hello Eddie-boy. See you got my card.. Don't remember saying y'could bring a chum though."
|Nice tits Fred.|
Fred: "War's what makes us human! Animals don't do it. It weeds out the weak. Makes you red in the bone. Only the strongest can come back."
Fred wonders why Ampney and Cromwell haven't changed, then realises Ampney is immune somehow. Fred goes to attack him and in the ensuing punch-up, Ampney and Cromwell dive back into the sea and return to their pedalo.
Back on dry land they walk back to Mrs. Chipps. Ampney wonders if the souls haven't been "infected" somehow. The trauma of a violent death led the souls to have less resilience and somehow an "abstract form of infection" a need for war has taken hold. They reach Mrs. Chipp's house but it is now on fire.
Ampney: "Suppose the diseased souls, now in infected flesh. Start to build the body of a beast not meant for this world. A being that is war incarnate."
Ampney says he knows from first hand experience that when such beasts breach our dimension they can only exist here for a short time. But this one is having a body built for it so it can survive and thrive here. The others wonder what can be done against it. Ampney says they must make it afraid and to do so, he needs the help of the remaining women of the coven, oh and they all need to be naked.
|War. What IS it good for?|
Fred realises what is happening and the embryonic "War Child" hatches out. Fred leads it to where Ampney and the others are and he and Cromwell get into a fight. Ampney and the women finish the spell and conjure up a vision of the huge lamprey-God that was Ampney's original battlefield vision. This terrifies the War Child and it breaks apart into the humans that made it up. It also cleanses the people of Blackpool of the savage souls possessing them.
|War Child goes to pieces.|
Ampney says the "lightless worlds" have a pecking order and the War Child was a minor being compared to the lamprey God. Ampney thanks Mrs. Chipps for her help and says he's placed a "hideously large amount" in her post office savings account and she should use it to have some fun. And with that Ampney and Cromwell depart and this arc comes to an end.
|Ampney explains... stuff.|