Page 45 Review by Stephen and Jonathan
"Throughout childhood people tell you to be less sensitive.
"Adulthood begins the moment someone tells you, "You need to be more sensitive"."
I swear on my psychotherapy couch that you do not need to have read the original prose novel to relish this original comic actually written - not suggested - by Chuck Palahnuik himself. I read the book many moons ago but can barely remember a word.
I seem to recall it was at least partially about smashing the system: rising in up in rebellion against corporate conditioning, financial finagling, governmental authoritarianism and the pervasive mediocrity we can obliviously settle for during our everyday, oh-so-short lives. About waking up from the ubiquitous mass hypnotism of messed-up humanity... whilst enthusiastically submitting to someone else's indoctrination. If it wasn't, it should have been.
It's why Jonathan Hickman's scathing NIGHTLY NEWS rang such a bell with me. The first paragraph of my NIGHTLY NEWS review reads:
"Terrorism. Communication. Authorative anti-authoritarianism. One man's enlightenment is the same man's indoctrination. Stop being a sheep, and be part of my flock instead!"
The cult of personality, eh? Unless it's mine, I'm always suspicious.
As I said, however, Fight Club could have been about something else entirely, like hitting people. I imagine that's why many went to see the film.
Fight Club 2 begins with a similarly iconoclastic personal survey in which you can discover, "Are You Space Monkey Material?" It poses 12 questions with mirth-inducing optional answers. Let's try a few.
"MY GREATEST REGRET IS...
A. The adverse effect my carbon footprint has on the intricate web of sensate life forms.
B. My past insensitivity to others whose cultural milieu and genetic makeup vary from my own.
C. My unexamined participation in the context of an entrenched capitalistic power hierarchy.
D. Nothing. Sir."
We'll leave aside "DO YOU GET OUT OF THE SHOWER TO TAKE A LEAK?" - it is funny, though - and skip straight past the increasingly angry activism of no-nonsense D to question number 12:
"THE GREATEST THREAT FACING OUR CURRENT GOVERNMENT IS...
A. Failure to recognise and reign in the scourge of white privilege.
B. The impending collapse of world oil reserves.
C. Dwindling honeybee populations.
As you may have gathered --- whoops, I was about to tell you what to conclude! Someone really should shoot my autopilot.
Okay, so the graphic novel itself kicks off with the narrator addressing the audience directly.
"Look at him. He calls himself Sebastian these days. Ten years ago he was destined to be another Alexander the Great. A new Genghis Khan. But Sebastian... he calls himself happy."
Well, with the aid of some tranks, anyway.
Back home his son is being nannied by a woman wielding a carving knife. But then his young son is having a time-out after being caught synthesising explosive compounds from local debris like dog poo.
His wife Marla is unsatisfying and so dissatisfied, calling for a certain, so-far off-stage Tyler to "deliver me from this bland, boring life". (First-time readers: you'll see, you'll see.) "Please, rescue me from my loving husband..."
By the end of the first issue-worth of material Tyler may just have done that, but in the meantime Marla's begun to take evasive manoeuvres of her own and Sebastian is swallowing them whole. Chic and suited, she's quite the self-obsessed piece of work, invading a counselling session for those with Hutchinson Gilford Progeria Syndrome (such rapid aging that 10-year-olds appear to be 60) while complaining about her wrinkles - "They're all on the inside!"
Chain-smoking throughout, she's drawn by Cameron Stewart with a superb sense of insouciance that puts me in mind of Mrs Quinn, the rich bitch in Nabiel Kanan's THE DROWNERS, though there's more than a touch of Sean Murphy in her angular face.
My favourite pages are those on which pills or petals - rendered to striking contrast with three-dimensional modelling complete with shadows which fall over the panels beneath them - are imposed over what is being said by the narrator or the narrative's participants. Whereas the dog's barking merely drowns thoughts out like ASTERIOS POLYP talking over his girlfriend, the effect here is different because you can discern what lies below - with the romantic rose petals at least - suggesting that the bunch of flowers Sebastian has bought his missus is merely a smoke screen hiding the lie of their messed-up marriage.
"Happy Annive -"
"I lo - you -"
"Take your pill."
There's no hiding that last line.
Sebastian, meanwhile, is the epitome not so much of exhausted but sedated. Everyone's more got more life in them than he has. Even his neighbour.
"Studies conducted by the United States Military prove that what women fear most is physical pain... What men fear most is being humiliated, losing social status, public ridicule."
Sebastian used to be a fighter once, but he's fallen asleep. Now it's time to wake up.
I think I can hear alarm bells ringing.
What you should now be asking yourself, is just who set off said alarm...?
Aficionados of Fight Club, the prose work that is, will absolutely devour this. It does everything they will have ever craved for in a sequel, which they probably never actually expected to happen, and so much more besides. They will learn who Tyler Durden truly is. Chuck Palahniuk will speak to them, and his characters, directly. No really, and their worlds will crumble into dust and ashes around their ears. Okay, maybe not that last bit, at least not for the readers, but I genuinely didn't see where this was going until the big reveal and even then, armed with that particular piece of knowledge, I couldn't see precisely how it would all end.
As exquisitely complex and tortuously dark as the original, I sincerely hope this encourages more prose literary figures to try their hand at comics writing (as William Gibson has just done with the excellent ARCHANGEL #1). I'm not sure I want a sudden raft of sequels to prose works in comics form, I think there are more than enough sequels generally already thank you, but given the original work was such a distinctive, vicious piece of satire regarding the culture of consumerism and the decay of Western civilisation, that has been proven so acutely accurate in the interim since its release, I think Chuck deserved his opportunity to play Tyler's story out to its ultimate, nasty unavoidable end-game. In other words: FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT! The nagging question though, is what exactly is Tyler fighting for?