For a debut issue, novelist Chuck Palahniuk comes to the comic medium with such grace and talent one would think he is an old master returning to his craft. The best-selling novelist chose to continue the story of Tyler Durden, Marla Singer and his unnamed narrator in the comics medium. Novelists such as Stephen King and Brad Meltzer have written comics. However, Palahniuk is treading new ground in Fight Club 2, a story he felt could only be presented in the comics medium.
In many ways, Palahniuk’s unique writing style is an even better fit for the comic medium than the novel. Palahniuk barrages readers with a stream of consciousness that shifts constantly from describing thought to seemingly irrelevant tangents. His style is not for linear narrative, which is why the film adaptations of Choke and Fight Club are considerable accomplishments. Fight Club 2 is very much Palahniuk’s style with narration that sometimes compliments or counters the events transpiring in the panels. The narration comes from Tyler Durden whose commentary is far more snarling and contemptuous than the envious observations of the narrator in Fight Club. Also, the debut chapter jumps quickly from scenes and tones that in the hands of another it would not make a cohesive whole. In this story we jump from Tyler and Marla’s son (not Sebastian’s son as he denied in the Free Comic Book Day preview) describing mixing explosives. Then there is a dark comedy sequence involving Marla crashing a progeria support group. Later Sebastian directly confronts Tyler in a dream. Much like the original novel, Palahniuk does not shy away from a disorienting mass of ideas colliding in a sequence. With the visual possibilities offered by the comics medium Palahniuk is able to bring his voice to a new level where symbols and prose are juxtaposed together to create a near vertigo effect while reading the pages. There are moments where Tyler’s narration is blotted out by dog barking or pills, while the narrative told in the panels is similarly drowned out by Sebastian’s medication and attempts to control himself.
As for the presentation of characters, a familiarity with the core narrative of Fight Club is necessary as certain motivations and plot devices are difficult to understand without reading the first novel. Marla Singer is probably the most intriguingly complex character in this first chapter. Marla has abandoned her more openly contemptuous attitudes towards society and now has turned her anger towards her husband. She blames her own lack of contentment in life on her husband and pines for the passion she felt when she was with Tyler. Palahniuk once alluded in his afterword to Fight Club that he perhaps considered his novel to be a love story between the narrator and Marla Singer. Palahniuk continues this strange love-triangle with the sequel story. The very notion that Marla begins to tamper with Sebastian’s drugs in spite of an acute awareness of Tyler’s violent tendencies shows Marla’s desperation to escape her predictable life and an unconscious narcissism. There is something equally cruel and sympathetic in Marla teasingly propositioning Sebastian/Tyler “Oh Tyler…deliver me from this lovely trap. Please, rescue me from my loving husband…”
In contrast the narrator, now known as Sebastian is so reticent and ashamed of himself. He does not seem happy, but he seems to not be as miserable as Marla openly declares she is. In contrast Tyler Durden is still the active and angry militant he was before. Thematically, it appears that the original draw of Tyler Durden has been lost. Fight Club dealt thematically with disaffected youth that were searching for meaning and direction in their lives. Tyler Durden gave direction and a cause to retaliate against the conforming system, which has its clear appeal to twentysomethings. In Fight Club 2, however, has Tyler be a representative of the unhinged and “free” lifestyle that Marla and subconsciously Sebastian craves. Yet now Tyler’s appeal and draw is lost to Sebastian and for most readers. Tyler Durden is something that Sebastian fears rather than wants to be and as such Tyler is now a nightmare. Whereas before the violent attacks on society were seen with envious eyes, now they are seen as deplorable and cruel. Sebastian views Tyler as a villain, so Tyler becomes a villain. It’s not that surprising given that the narrator subtly elevated Tyler for every action, to the point of near homo-erotic attraction in the original novel. But now, Sebastian wants to be free of Tyler. Tyler has made the jump from everything Sebastian wanted to be to everything Sebastian wants to not be. But Marla and Tyler refuse to let Tyler disappear.