In 1996, Chuck Palahniuk brought us the novel Fight Club. Three years later saw the release of the film of the same name, which featured a significantly different ending and fit, shirtless Brad Pitt bemoaning the idealization of fit, shirtless male stereotypes.
The movie – and to a lesser degree, the book – changed the cultural landscape for a generation of (largely) males aged (mostly) 16-30 or so, who revered the story for its crisp humor and the way it eviscerated consumer culture and exposed the dwindling masculinity of the modern American male. Full disclosure: I held and still hold Fight Club (the movie first, then the book) in high regard. My college apartment had a movie poster hanging high, and I could drop Tyler Durden quotes with the best of them.
Whether you’ve been waiting with baited breath for a sequel or can’t see any way the original story could be continued without Palahniuk selling out his artistic integrity, I’ve got good news! The sequel is here, and the integrity stands, but not in the way you might think (and/or want).
It’s important to note that the sequel picks up some years after the end of the book, not the film. If you’re only familiar with the Norton/Pitt version, what you need to know is that the bombs don’t blow up, The Narrator defeats Durden more or less on his own, and ends up in therapy. Picking up some years later, FC2 introduces us to Sebastian, who might be more familiar to you as The Narrator, now carrying a why-the-hell-not of a name and living the life we all rooted for him to dismantle in the original story.
Out of therapy, he is living the picket-fence life in the suburbs, raising his son with his wife, Marla (yes, that Marla). He is employed with a defense contractor, and taking a veritable pharmacy worth of pills to keep his demon at bay.
Not one to be kept at bay by the likes of milquetoast Sebastian, Tyler Durden makes his comeback, slowly but surely, aided by Marla and a therapist who may or may not have ulterior motives. Fight Club is mostly an echo now, as Project Mayhem has become a powerful if covert global force, bent on the ultimate in mayhem, global war and destruction.
When things get harry in the story, Palahniuk turns to fellow writers for help. No, literally, in the book. Periodically we see Chuck working through the story with a team of creators. While not exactly “breaking the fourth wall,” this starts out as a jarring break in the story, but turns out to be a very deliberate (and explicitly stated) deus ex machina.
Sometimes a story’s ending is a cop-out, a middle finger to the fans. In this case, that’s the whole point, including fans showing up in a mob to attack Palahniuk for failing to make a traditional sequel, even though some of them clearly have no idea that there was even a book to begin with. Fight Club 2 is a snub to fans, but as a fan, if you dig a little deeper, this is the perfect follow-up to Fight Club, not so much of the story line, but of the themes.
Cameron Stewart’s panels, to be blunt, are relatively generic, and leave something to be desired. The cover art for the 10 individual comics and the graphic are all beautifully done and raise expectations for the art inside. Possibly the best thing about the pages are the fourth-wall breaking add-ons: knocked-out teeth, rose petals, and blood spatters litter the pages, up to the point where they actually obscure dialogue and narration. It’s fun and visually well done, and while it adds into the “mayhem,” I can’t help but feel like the story loses out on some of the excellent writing due to this prop.
The comic medium is a great place for this story to take place. Another film would never deliver this level of creativity, and, let’s face it, at least half the Fight Club fans out there have never read the book anyway, so this perfectly splits the difference between novel and visual, pop culture venue.