by Chris Braly
“I want you to hit me as hard as you can,” is the iconic phrase used by Tyler Durden to lure Jack, our protagonist, into becoming a leader of Space Monkeys and into the world of Fight Club. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then I can safely say that Fight Club 2 may not be for you. For the uninformed, sit back as I break the first and second rules of Fight Club. It is a secret society of men who meet in order to find freedom and self-realization through beating one another into pulp led by the alter-ego of our main character to escape the drudgery of his boring, Ikea-filled life. Fight Club the novel, by Chuck Palahniuk, contained exceptional social satire and was adapted to film before everyone carried smartphones or posted photos to Facebook. This comic picks up ten years after the events of the novel, instead of referencing the popular movie by David Fincher, where the ending was wildly different.
In an era of sequels, prequels, and reboots, I was unsure that a story so perfect would work as a follow-up, although Fight Club‘s premise clearly set things up for one, both the book and the film. So when the new comic-book series was first announced by Dark Horse, I was intrigued but somewhat skeptical. How will Jack/Tyler react to our modern world? What kind of diatribes will the brilliant, but sociopathic Tyler Durden wax about regarding Twitter, terrorism, about the economic collapse? Will the creators be able to capture the same wildness of the original tale?
Having picked up the Free Comic Book Day issue, which serves as a bridge between the book (and the movie, strangely enough), and reading it back-to-back with issue #1, I found that my skepticism was unwarranted. This story is full of surprises and is a great expansion of an already imaginative universe. And with the original creator, Chuck Palahniuk, back at the helm of his seminal story, it’s very hard not to like it.
The comic focuses on Jack, who is now going by the name Sebastian. He is actually nameless in the greater sense because he is always telling people he goes by another name, as he is back to visiting support groups in order to feel better about himself, at least in the #0 FCBD issue. We see now that “Sebastian” has settled down, married Marla, and had a little boy simply known as “Junior.” Marla, too, is crashing support groups to vent her frustrations and detail her wishes that her husband should resurrect his “wild side.” When Sebastian discovers this, his carefully constructed world slowly falls apart. The reader quickly learns that it’s not just his wife Marla who wants the old Tyler back; there are others trying to bring him back, as well, and for different reasons.
The art chores are deftly handled by Cameron Stewart who uses every inch of the page to bring Palahniuk’s world to life, creating a perfect marriage of the writer’s unique style of communication with the art of sequential storytelling. Sebastian’s prescription pills, which Marla is secretly reloading with sugar to bring him out his stupor, are visually scattered across the pages of the comic, masking moments that would normally create strong reactions or triggers, but being covered by the drugs, seem to have no effect, simulating the drug-induced fog of Sebastian’s mundane life. All the while the reader can sense Tyler’s presence is surely still lurking about and slowly creeping back into Sebastian’s flaccid, boring world.
Dave Stewart also demonstrates his mastery of color, from the muted haze of Sebastian’s waking life, to the crazy swirl of his secret life. And let me say now that this book is not for children and should come with a mature rating. The scenes where Sebastian’s “wild side” finally begins to return are pure storytelling art without any need for words, as sexualized imagery almost flies off the page. There are other extras and nods to the original story, as well, including a clever survey for Space Monkeys on the inside cover. Take your time with this book, and absorb it all in.
Palahniuk’s bold prose remains intact in these comics, with insightful ramblings on modern life that give the story a sense of energy, even as the main characters are wallowing in misery. This is classic stuff with ample humor and bite, and in spite the familiar Fight Club tropes, the storyteller is able to slowly build the tension for readers as we wait to see when and where Tyler will show up and turn everything on its head. Tyler eventually shows up, and I expect he will take this sequel into new territory. And it may become a bit frightening as it gets there. In Tyler we trust.
Check out the original Fight Club, as well as other works by both Palahniuk and Stewart: