In the eyes of an over hyper generation of alpha male wanna-bes I’m about to commit the equivalent of nerd suicide. How you ask? It’s simple. I’ll do it by simply stating– in an open and public forum– what we are all thinking but too self-interested in our own self-image of looking “cool” to say. Fight Club 2 is pure and utter dog shit. Now go ahead and line up to boo me for stating the obvious. Go ahead. Get your little fingers working overtime on your keyboard and write about how I am such a hack to not fall instantly in love with the genius sequel to Palahniuk’s original masterwork. Blast it on your social media. Blaze it across the headlines of your personal blog. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
There is a deeply rooted; almost entrenched love affair between my generation and the original Fight Club. Name an overly aggressive man who you went to college with that didn’t blurt out the now beat –to-death line of “The first rule of Fight Club…”
It was a social lightening rod for the disenfranchised. An entire generation of kids was getting ready to watch the world turn the corner into the new Millennium; we were hyped up by society to be the next great hope for the future. We were going to usher in the new age with our bravado, our talent, our endless optimism. Instead we got kicked out into a society that was just months away from 9/11, two wars, an economic downfall that would almost rival the great depression, a President that lied to us about WMD’s, a culture that devalued artistic expression in favor of the mundane. Fight Club wasn’t a piece of fictional entertainment, it was a glorified documentary.
“God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars, advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of the history man, no purpose or place, we have no Great war, no Great depression, our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives, we’ve been all raised by television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars, but we won’t and we’re slowly learning that fact. and we’re very very pissed off.” – Tyler Durden, Fight Club 1999
Sebastian (AKA Edward Norton’s un-named character in the film) has moved on from the events that ended the first film. He married Marla, had a son, went back to a white-collar job, and takes anti-psychotic pills by the handful. He is back to being firmly entrenched in the drudgery of the mindless middle class American lifestyle. But guess what? The guy who once single-handedly built an entire army of devoted cult followers isn’t happy with his mediocre life. He wants more. But being afraid of his ever looming alternate personality (The now infamous Tyler Durden) he keeps to his little piece of normalcy. That is until everything begins to unravel.
Marla, desperate for the excitement that Tyler had brought to her life and to her husband when they first met begins to trade out Sebastian’s pills for sugar tabs. Their bland marriage has forced the couple to the edge of divorce, now Marla –in her bid to spice up her miserable life—is cheating on her husband with his own split personality.
Slowly we watch Sebastian fall back into the madness that is Tyler Durden. He begins to become aware of the edges of his reality starting to fray as he suspects that his wife his cheating, fight club members begin to appear with more frequency and his own urge for violence rises to the surface. It’s here at the beginning of Tyler’s reemergence within Sebastian that the entire plot and comic falls down and never regains its footing.
It was shortly after the release of the feature film that the concept of real live fight clubs hit the social consciousness. Government watch groups claimed that Fight Club was nothing more than a glorified guide to home-grown terrorism; a how-to guide for domestic anti-American hate groups. Palahniuk for all of his celebrity I believe came to the realization that he may have tapped into a nerve that ran deeper into the social awareness than even he gave it credit for. He had tapped into something primal within his audience and the reaction was enough to give the author pause.
That’s my personal opinion. How else could you explain how the author of such a lauded work would take the sequel and publicly execute it for the entire world to see? Fight Club 2 takes everything that made the original work exceptional and just squats over its chest and lays a steaming deuce right in the middle of a modern classic. I personally think that Chuck Palahniuk hates Fight Club. I believe that he set out from the very beginning to destroy the magic of the first novel and the movie by making this follow-up a joke—and that’s what this graphic novel is. It’s a joke between the author and the audience.
Palahniuk brings back the entire cast of characters from the first go-round. Bob “Bitch-tits” is back, so is “Angel Face”, the character that was beaten to a pulp and played by Jared Leto. The gang’s all here, for better or worse, to play their part in the downfall of this comic.
You’re probably asking yourself at this point why I have such a hard-on against this title. I’m like most of you that are fans of the first book/film. I watched the movie multiple times, finding the hidden images placed throughout, reading the hidden text at the beginning of the film, going back to see if there really was a cup of coffee in every scene. I poured over this material time and again to catch-all the subtle nuances, the tiny details. It was and is one of my favorite films just for the sheer amount of content and context that can be pulled from one single work.
To read Fight Club 2 you expect the same subtlety mixed with hyper violence, instead we are treated to tongue in cheek humor that falls instantly flat. Like Marla’s network of terminally ill patients who mobilize to become their own Make-A-Wish army. The joke was lame the first time it was introduced but by the end of the series you feel like you’re the one getting punched in the face with the same tired punch line over and over again. I tapped out long ago, but the book feels compelled to continue pummeling you long after the humor has faded. Then there is the matter of the kidnapping of Sebastian’s son, which is really the driving force behind the entire book, but plays out like a SNL skit. There is no real weight or danger here. There are no real odds, because by the time you get to the plot’s resolution you have long forgotten why you started reading in the first place.
It seems like Palahniuk had no real idea how to measure up to the first offering of Fight Club and instead of leaving an amazing work standing on its own merit he built a follow-up that threw everything but the kitchen sink at it. As I said before, I think Chuck was on a mission to destroy any remaining good will his audience had toward this title. It reads more like a mental breakdown or a drugged fueled haze than a comic. The story is so convoluted and contrived that I was actually angry—physical upset—by the time I finished this book. I wanted my time back. I wanted to go back and never waste my life reading this subpar dreck in the first place.
There is one take away from all of this that I would place in the plus column and only one. Cameron Stewart does his damnedest to try to keep up with Palahniuk’s ravings. The art is psychotic at points. Bouncing from the surreal to the bizarre to the muddled, Stewart gives visual to the mess that is the plot, unfortunately he is at the mercy of a shitstorm and is pulled down along with everything else that this book touches.
Modern audiences will say that this is a great comic. Your fellow nerds will tell you that this is a meaningful work that is to be praised because it is the sequel of such an amazing piece of pop culture, everyone will lie to each other to try to save face. No one will stand up and call this comic what it is and that is the drizzling shits. Don’t believe the hype. Don’t buy into the fandom. If you are a fan of the series then just go back and watch the movie one more time. DO NOT BUY THIS. It will ruin any and all goodwill you ever had towards the brand, the author, the actors, the studio, the artist, the publisher, your parents, your old high school football coach, your fifth grade math teacher, your local pet store owner…everyone and everything. It will make you miserable and depressed. Just don’t do it.
Final Thoughts: If you want to watch an author implode his own career then pick up this graphic novel, otherwise give this book a wide birth and avoid at all costs.
Final Grade: 0 Stars (One of the worst offerings I have read this year)
Fight Club 2
Story: Chuck Palahniuk
Art: Cameron Stewart
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics