I’m really glad that I came across The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean at What the Book? Unfortunately, it was like many graphic novels in this country (South Korea), and many other books, wrapped up in cellophane so you cannot skim the pages. But the images on the covers were enough to compel me to scoop with one up without a second thought. And am I ecstatic that I did.
Gaiman, the author of the Sandman graphic novels and other novels including Startdust and Good Omen with Terry Pratchett really out did himself with this tale. Now, before I go much further I must admit that I find the story of Punch and Judy quite disturbing but I’m drawn to it, I find it utterly fascinating – I cannot get enough. Gaiman intertwines the story of Punch with that of a *ugh* coming of age story. I must also confess I hate coming of age stories, there is something so trite about them that makes it difficult to control my gag reflexes. But, and let me tell you this is a huge but, Neil Gaiman has out done himself on this one.
Not only is the story of Mr. Punch’s murder spree told with all the darkest possible with but the story of the boy and the elderly characters that surround him when he is shipped off the live with his grandparents prior to the birth of his sister because of the childhood disease he has contracted is equally captivating. Every word leads to the needs making it very difficult to put the book down. I always was found wanting more, even at the end.
More than Gaiman’s words Dave McKean transported us to the past and the Punch and Judy tent of yore brilliantly using various mediums. The words could be ignored, and I often found I was forgetting them while consuming this book, because of the eye candy provided by McKean. There are so many nuances in the images that I found I dwelt on a page for much longer than I normally would reading a graphic novel. I choice of Punch doll used for the book was perfect, he was so creepy and yet I couldn’t take my eyes off him or the other characters in the puppet show.
The various moods were present in both image and word. As soon as the page was turned you knew you were in for a feast! Although you wanted Gaiman’s words to propel you forward, and they did, McKean’s images forced you to pause. These forces worked so well together that I didn’t notice they were so different until after I completed the book and began reflecting on readability of it.
To date this is the best graphic novel I have read. I would definitely recommend it and the recommendation is even greater for any fan of Gaiman or Punch and Judy. Run to your nearest bookshop and grab a copy. What the Book has not disappointed yet again! I hope their graphic novel section continues to grow and I find more gems like this one.