Probably one of the most anticipated comics of the year is the sequel to Fight Club in comic book form. Sequel to the book that is, as creator/writer Chuck Palahniuk returns to world of Tyler Durden and is joined by Cameron Stewart. With each group review we invite the writers of Comic Bastards to give their thoughts and a score for the issue, but first what’s it about?
Some imaginary friends never go away . . .
Ten years after starting Project Mayhem, he lives a mundane life. A kid, a wife, pills to keep his destiny at bay. But it won’t last long; the wife has seen to that. The time has come . . .
Rize or Die.
The Fight Club novel was fantastic, the movie was great and the sequel in the comic book form is…very interesting. The book instantly hits you with that Fight Club flavor on the first page with The Tranquility Gambit, a multiple choice quiz asking are you a space monkey? The good news is that I passed with flying colors.
When it comes to the meat and potatoes of the Fight Club 2 experience it’s a welcome return to form. It’s sprinkled with dark and twisted comedy, interesting panel/dialog presentation that adds layers to the read. As for the art, it felt a little odd at first and didn’t feel like it “quite fit”, but a few pages in, there wasn't even a second thought. I was sold.
The minuscule evolution of characters is great because it felt so natural. There’s no way that they should be in a happy place. Though I would have liked to see the new family dynamic a little longer before Tyler reemerged. Basically if you’re a Palahniuk fan and Fight Club is your thing then you know what to do.
Who wasn't excited when they heard Palahniuk was writing a continuation of Fight Club. I had the normal trepidation that comes with a creator going back to the well. I was still hopeful, I think that hope stems from the fact that I've only watched the film (many times), so can't really be called a mega-fan (even though I do love that movie). One tough thing is how do you follow on from an ending that good?
The answer is it's hard. It did a lot of rehashing the tropes from the movie; support groups, images from Ikea catalogs, making illicit materials from harmless ones and so on. This was to be expected and some of them are worked in well, a few felt like they were saying 'see its Fight Club, like the movie'.
The biggest thing was that how do you continue without Tyler Durden, or do you bring him back and if you bring him back, how do you do it? In this area the book did not let me down, I enjoyed the way the story builds to his reveal and finding out more about the time gap. The issue ends on a really awesome scene, to really drive home that shit is going to happen (there's fire). It didn't blow my socks off, but it didn't leave me sobbing into a large-mans-tits so I will happily return for issue 2.
Fight Club is one of those weird cultural phenomenons that seems to take middle-school aged boys right up to the line of puberty and push them over. In early high school, I remember my friends and I thought about starting our own fight club, in the school theater; it was not until earlier this year when I found out another friend of mine, from a different state, had the same experience with his cohort.
Checking back in with Fight Club so many years later is strange, like putting on an old t-shirt you used to sleep in and remembering that it smells like your dusty closet. It’s still a white dude who’s so oppressed by the strictures of society that he’s developed a split personality (who even looks different? Ah, comics) who rules the world by inciting violence. Perhaps the biggest clue to the series’ new direction is the neck tattoo on a bartender that directs the reader to Genesis 6:11-13--God telling Noah the world is full of wickedness and he’s going to cleanse it.
Palahniuk can still craft a compelling story, even in a medium that is new to him. The story is both easy to follow and as manic as his novels are, overwritten to a point that it has to be on purpose, and all over the place by design. Cameron Stewart’s layouts and pencils are both phenomenal. You get a real sense of the energy of the book (and the movie, in one flashback) by how Stewart chooses to make his panels, and it all just works together. They even introduce this device where occasionally there will be pills or rose petals eclipsing the panels. It’s a strange intrusion of the Fight Club world into ours that still introduces a layer of distance--perhaps a note that “this is fiction and should not be emulated?”
I came to this comic fully expecting to dislike it. I’ve grown up, I don’t have these childish fears anymore, etc. I felt bad about myself for liking it, but I remember feeling that way about the novel when I was a teenager. Do I think “Sebastian” has other, more important things to worry about than how his marriage and his unnamed son have crushed his go-getter attitude that he never had? Of course. Do I think it’s in poor taste that Tyler is starting terrorist attacks across the world in an age where the news cycles are filled with riots, and actual fighting against actual power structures? I totally do.
But damn, did I like this comic.
Fight Club is my favorite movie ever. I know, I know; it's such a college Freshman cliché, but beneath the obvious appeal of the plot twist, the leading hunks, and Helena Bonham-Carter's abysmal American accent, is a dark comedy with better direction than most movies in existence.
But the end of that movie was so personal and final for me that I don't know what I'm supposed to do with this comic on an emotional level. I've never had this problem before. I don't even feel this way about the new Star Wars because a world that big is sufficiently open-ended. Cameron Stewart is masterful, and I love the fourth-wall effects in this comic; hell, the thing is well-written and the dialog is beautifully consistent with the world so many of us have come to quote over and over again. There's nothing obviously wrong with this comic, and, as far as comics go, it's actually damn good; but, I'm in emotional knots big time over this thing, and it's frustratingly ineffable for me right now. This one is going to take some time to get used to. I love what they've done with Tyler, and I'm 100% on board with "Sebastian" and Marla's relationship—
But I am Jack's befuddlement.
In reality it doesn’t matter what I think of this comic and because of that I’ll just tell you a story. I am a very big fan of Fight Club the movie as most males between ages 16-40 are. I am not a fan of the book. I attempted to read it and my first and last thought was, “thank god David Fincher made it through this and made that movie.” Nothing against Chuck Palahniuk, but I couldn’t get into it and hell that’s the case with most books that I read after viewing the film (it’s something I go through with anime and manga as well).
But I am a very big fan of the movie. So much so that I was working at a movie theater went it was released and made sure to request the day off of work to then go to work and see the movie first thing in the morning. Later I became the person that changed the posters and marquees on Thursday nights. This was also when Fantasia 2000 was releasing and we were putting up these huge fucking banners for the Disney flop. And there it was… sitting… un-used… unappreciated… a Fight Club banner.
My heart skipped a beat as your might have just done as well.
I brought down the other banners I needed and ran over to my manger on duty and asked about the banner and if I could have it since the movie was already out of theaters by then having only a moderate box office success. I could see that he was hesitant to let me have it, but he did. I almost fell off the ladder four times that night trying to hang up those goddamn Fantasia banners, but to this day I still have a giant fucking Fight Club banner. I was once offered a DVD player for it (when DVD players first came out) and thankfully I turned that shit down. I turned it down hard and I think about that moment and that moment when my heart skipped a beat every time I look at it. Because I still have it to this day.
My take away from this comic is that it’s going to be one hell of a read when it’s completed, but due to the fact that the comic industry only marks success by the single issue standard it’s been chopped up. This should have been a graphic novel. It would have sold amazingly well if it was and so things that I think are in the works I now have to wait months and months to find out. Single issue format was a botched move for this and this issue suffers because of it. Buy it, but don’t read it until you have all the issues.
Was the first Fight Club this heavy-handed with its critique of contemporary America’s obsession with pharmaceutical quick fixes and consumerist obsessions? That’s the question I kept asking myself as I read through this first issue of 2. Although Palahniuk does a great job of dropping us back into the world that generated actual fight clubs, I didn’t find anything here that would make me want to return for another visit. Satisfied with narration that criticizes Sebastian’s pill popping and detachment from his life (sound familiar?), the comic doesn’t appear in much of a rush to explore new thematic territory.
Cameron Stewart’s art conveys the bubbling frustration and depression of Marla and Sebastian respectively with efficiency, but I was only ever really captivated by the artwork in a few scenes like when Marla wakes up the dormant Tyler Durden for a night of sex that would shave years off your life. Perhaps that’s an intentional choice meant to visually convey the dull suburban lives they now lead, and if so, kudos to Stewart for pulling it off. Also, the decision to overlay some panels with items such as Sebastian’s placebos or rose petals seemed gimmicky more than an organic addition to the comic. Their presence on the page didn’t add any greater meaning to the story and neither did it look interesting.
I’m glad that Palahniuk kicks the plot into high gear by the end of this issue, and returns Marla and Sebastian to unstable ground. This comic may hold something for aimless undergraduates like the first book/movie did, but in my case the ten years between this comic and the previous story have been significant enough to lessen my appreciation for the trials of Sebastian/Marla/Tyler.
Was there ever any doubt? After a long break from the award winning book and super huge super manly super cult classic movie, writer Chuck Palahniuk has returned to the world of testosterone driven psychotic mania and mayhem, striking a middle finger and mighty fisted blow to the established world order. Fight Club is back baby. And this time, it’s in a graphic novel format. It seems that Palahniuk wanted to do something different with his sequel. Putting it in comic form apparently made sense as the buzz has been strong for this one to drop. Dark Horse Comics decided to take advantage of that buzz and put the first issue of this ten issue series out during Free Comic Book Day. Well played guys. Hook ‘em early.
When I first started reading the issue, the one thing that I found refreshing was how quickly I fell right back into the swing of things, even though I haven’t read the book or seen the movie in quite some time. Doesn’t matter. As soon as Sebastian (his name revealed!) starts his narration, you feel like you are getting reacquainted with old (and crazy) friends that you ran with in your wilder days. The whole gang is here, Sebastian, Marla, and of course, Tyler.
Taking place ten years after the events of the book and movie, Poor Sebastian appears to have lost that loving feeling with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Palahniuk does a wonderful writing job in the graphic form, placing a cramped and anxiety fueled sobriety to Sebastian’s words and thoughts. Sure, he wants to be a tough guy. But in his current state of heavy medications and a belief that he is “happy”, he is depicted most certainly as not. Throughout the issue, those irritating things on the outside interrupt Sebastian’s narration, often drowning out his thoughts and even his words quite literally on the printed page. The pills typically numb it and put him in a happy place. But even they are portrayed as drowning out life. The time is right for Tyler not only to return, but return with some heavy duty fireworks.
The writing delivers the build-up as well as the forces at play for Tyler’s return. They are everywhere for the reader to see, but Sebastian simply does not, lost in his own realm of the mundane. As this writing moves forward, Palahniuk delivers that Tyler has always been at work living and controlling his side of things. “Rize or Die” indeed.
With the art beautifully drawn by Cameron Stewart, he puts the “mad” in artistic “madness”. The art is what I would call “manically” drawn, working well with Palahniuk’s written portrayal of the characters. The art is not only visual, but it hits several other senses as well. We are in Sebastian’s brain, feeling what he feels and seeing what he sees, and even smelling what he smells. That is, until we are in Tyler’s more colorful brain. Big props need to be given to Dave Stewart as he kills the pale blues, dull grays, and limited coloring of Sebastian’s existence with the more defined and bright coloring of Tyler.
I was a little surprised with the ending. But if you are trying to announce your presence to your alter ego, then you have better go hard. Tyler most certainly does. Looks like the next nine issues will be some kind of ride.