McKean's art elevates the visuals above the basic flat 2D of most comics, most impressively his use of photographic elements, adding depth and a sense of realism. It more than compliments Gaiman's writing, demonstrating yet again why these two are one of the best creative teams in comics. McKean's work here is still some of the best of his career - sharp, inventive and captivating. The whole design of the book is something to behold, right down the twisting fonts, showing why he is the arguably the best when it comes to doing what he does, as well as the most prone to 'homage'.
Having the Punch and Judy puppets as the only "real" elements (apart from backgrounds and props) is a masterstroke. Mr Punch himself is a terrifying figure, a puppet, all pointy angles and staring eyes. Even his speech, larger than the other fonts, stands out against smears of white as he laughs and taunts. "That's the way to do it!" The characters are, for the most part, painted, except in the case of reflections, in photographs and half-recalled memories.
When the narrator is seen in the present day, it is in shadow (another form of puppetry), a silhouette through gauze, and mostly at funerals or weddings, the beginning and the ends of families. Most tantalisingly is the back cover of the book, where a small boy lies sleeping, helping the phantasmagorical atmosphere along. This combination of words and pictures create such an engrossing world that we are sucked right in, sometimes uncomfortably as we witness the exploits of the clearly mad Mr Punch and the parallels in life.
Gaiman has said that MR PUNCH is the work he is most proud of, which, looking at his body of work, is saying something. It's a dark and unsettling look at how we perceive that strange and exciting time known as childhood long after we've grown up.
And that's the way to do it.