Five Things We Learned From The First Issue Of ‘Fight Club 2’

You’ve already gotten a look at Fight Club 2, before the first issue arrives May 27. But should you pick it up if you were a fan of the movie or, more importantly, the book? Here’s what we learned from reading the first issue. Light spoilers ahead:

Project Mayhem is still very much a go.

First of all, this picks up from the end of the novel, not the movie. The novel ended with the narrator in a psychiatric home, and learning that Project Mayhem has grown well beyond Tyler Durden. One of the first things we learn, though, is that members of the project refuse to accept Tyler has “retired.” And, it turns out, for excellent reason.

Marla and the narrator got married, had a kid, and that went about as well as you’d expect.

In the intervening decade, the narrator and Marla basically tried to be normal people. Considering the book opens with Marla crashing a progeria support group, and the narrator is consuming every anti-depressant known to man, you can kinda see where this is going.

The sequel is a lot like the book, at least on the surface.

Fight Club, the novel, is a fascinating book because of its recursive structure; everything the book mentions, from how the narrator packs his bags to how his parents treated him, echoes forwards or backwards. And in turn, the comic is full of echoes of the original novel, right down to using the same language in some places.

Tyler is very much alive, and may be something more than just an alternate personality.

First of all, yes, Tyler turns up in this book, although why and how is best left to the reading. There are, however, two telling moments that come up; the first is that the narrator’s son (who also doesn’t have a proper name) knows how to make gunpowder. The second is that Tyler implies that he was haunting our narrator’s father.

It’s not Fight Club where it counts, though.

I read Fight Club a dozen times in high school, and probably a dozen times since then, and although my appreciation of the book’s overall message has changed substantially, one thing that’s stayed the same is the fiercely personal moments that make the book such a compelling read. Palahniuk has made no secret that Fight Club came directly out of his frustrations with his own life at the time, and it can be searing on the page even with more than a decade of distance. One of the great passages of the book, for example, is the narrator recalling an AIDS scare he had, and Palahniuk ever so subtly twisting that around to compare it to the mindless followers of Project Mayhem, who’ve handed in one type of conformity for another. He sums it up with one painful sentence: “The cancer I don’t have is everywhere, now.”

This sequel just doesn’t have that energy, so far. It’s a rather facile exercise, at least in the first issue, and probably the most damning thing I can say about it is that once you read the plot summary, you know beat for beat how the book’s going to unfold. It doesn’t help that Cameron Stewart’s art, while good, is a bit too clean and cartoony to quite fit the tone of the book

Worse, there’s a lack of self-awareness here that’s a bit troubling. The first interior page is dedicated to an Instagram contest, for crying out loud. Part of the reason the book worked so well is that it perfectly summed up the rage of the privileged, how people with nothing to be pissed off about get pissed off about every little thing, mostly because they can. The comic, so far, is mostly about reminding you that Palahniuk wrote a really great book once, and he’s kinda relying on stroking that nostalgia center of the brain will get you to hand over four bucks and maybe scrawl some graffiti in the hopes of getting a leatherbound copy.

This doesn’t mean I think it won’t be a hit. Dark Horse is going to sell these things by the crate. It’s the perfect kind of nihilism for strip malls, hostile without being actually dangerous, pretending to be edgy while resting on comfortable cliches of pills and suburban ennui. It’s happy to tell you the world sucks, but is scared of telling you to ask why. Perhaps it picks up in later issues, but for now, it’s less about the mayhem and more about the same old story.