The following will spoil ‘Fight Club’ for anyone who hasn’t read or seen it. It’s advised you go read/see it or preferably both before embarking on this review. Don’t worry. We’ll still be here when you get back.
Chuck Palahniuk’s 1997 novel ‘Fight Club’ and its subsequent 1999 film adaptation blew apart genre conventions to become one of the defining cult texts of the early part 21st century. An inherent nihilism combined with black comedy and a searing indictment of modern society to create a piece of work that dabbled with drama, thriller, horror and even had a small tinge of Science Fiction. Author Chuck Palahniuk now returns to the world he created, but this time in the medium of comicbooks and once again manages to confound audiences as he blurs the lines between genres and fiction and reality.
It’s 10 years since the ‘death’ of Tyler Durden and Sebastian, formerly the unnamed ‘narrator’ of the original ‘Fight Club’, is living a life free of his deranged alter-ego. Sadly, this means it’s a life of boring monotony, mowing the lawn and trying to keep his marriage to Marla intact. But when Sebastian’s son starts to make some suspiciously anarchistic statements, he begins to worry. Soon, it becomes apparent that Tyler Durden is not quite as dead as he thought he was. Indeed, after revelations gleaned from his therapist, Sebastian sees that Tyler has been quite busy. It looks like the there’s a new project that promises a lot more than mayhem on the horizon.
At the beginning, it seems that ‘Fight Club 2’ is going to be somewhat of a straight-laced thriller. With the ‘cat out of the bag’ on Sebastian and Tyler’s dual identity, the narrative begins to focus on the battle of wills between the two and Marla and Sebastian dealing with the staid lives versus the excitement that Durden obviously offered them.
As Tyler’s plan to take over the world is revealed to be even more grandiose and advanced than originally thought, the straight narrative begins to fracture into an absurd deconstruction of both storytelling and of the ‘Fight Club’ mythos itself. At one point, after Sebastian has headed underground to search out more of Tyler’s minions, Marla must search for her son at various clubs which include Pint Club – the first rule of which is you ‘don’t talk about Pint Club’, Film Club – the first rule of which is you don’t talk about Rosebud and so on and so on. Not only does this gleefully poke fun at the meme for which Fight Club is arguably most famous but things further disintegrate when Martha’s quest comes for an end when she asks author Chuck Palahniuk to give her the information she seeks. As Palahniuk becomes a more significant character later on, we’re thrust into a world of two levels, one the traditional ‘end of the world’ story and the other a more chaotic treatise on authorship and how characters are ‘taken’ from said authors.
This ever increasing chaos is sometimes dizzying. Not only do we have different levels of narrative going on, but we also have Sebastian and Tyler constantly switching identities. But the sheer amount of ideas and absurd comic undertone, especially Marla’s detour into a war zone with a group of progeria sufferers, give everything such a breathless energy that it’s hard not to be swept along.
Cameron Stewart’s art is sharp and angular and reflects the chaotic ideals at the heart of the story. His habit of also occasionally obscuring the speech bubbles with various objects and sound effects also heightens awareness of the actual world of the comicbook and adds to the ‘meta-narrative’ going on. It’s surprising, though, how relatively chaste it all seems. There’s plenty of swearing and a few moments of nasty violence. Yet the comicbook world of ‘Fight Club 2’ seems rather tame in a medium which now has James Bond gleefully exploding bad guys’ heads left, right and centre. There’s a certain amount of maybe deliberate irony that the dark vein of nihilism which typified the original is now the now norm for many of’ Fight Club 2’s shelf mates
There is a certain feeling that Palahniuk, in completely subverting expectations of a text the original of which was also rather subversive, is also delighting in working in the comicbook medium as he deconstructs it and his persona and the news that he’s working on ‘Fight Club 3’ should surprise no-one.
Those looking for a straightforward sequel to the original will actually find it, though they might be advised to read some Roland Barthes if they want to get a little bit more out of proceedings. Whilst it is sometimes disjointed and a little too chaotic for its own good, ‘Fight Club 2’ is a bold and clever affair that always seems to stay one step ahead of the reader.
(pub: Dark Horse Publishing, 2016. 256 page graphic novel hardback. Price: £19.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-61655-945-8)
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