Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Judge Dredd - America: The evolution of MacNeil

'America' by John Wagner and Colin MacNeil is a stand-out story in 40 years of Judge Dredd comics, a heartbreaking tale of freedom in the future society of Mega-City One, where the judges are pure fascist bully-boys, crushing the hopes and dreams of regular citizens in the name of rigid law and order, until some of those regular joes bite back.

It's worth getting the collected edition of the America comics because you see how the story evolves over a couple of decades and becomes something even richer and deeper, as actions have massive consequences, years down the line.

And it's also worth getting the collection because you can see MacNeil's art change over the years, and see the artist evolve with the story.

The first series is painted in an especially 1990s manner, with fuzzy edges that give the comic a hot and humid kind of gloom, while covering up any early awkwardness in the artist's style. By the time of the first sequel, it's a bit more refined and slick, but also slathered in harsh 1990s colouring and weird skin tones.

But by the third chapter in the collection, MacNeil has really sharpened as an artist. At first glance, it may be seen as more cartoonish, but there is also a lot more confidence in his line, with less shading and a strict, bold sweep. It's the style the artist has stuck with for a few years now - and has even been on display in a new Dredd strip by Wagner in recent progs.

The great appeal of the Dredd storyline is that the plot has grown and become something truly exceptional over the decades, as the years build up and consequences come down the line. But it's also enabled artist like MacNeil to grow too, and you can see it in a single story. America is not just one of the best Dredd stories ever, it's a gruddamn art class.

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