Fight Club 2 nears its conclusion, taking time for writer Chuck Palahniuk to join the readers in asking, “What happens next?”
After years of marriage, Marla Singer and Sebastian (the narrator of the previous story) have settled down and started a family. Following the return of Tyler Durden, Sebastian’s alter-ego, their boy is kidnapped in order to be Tyler’s new host. Attempting to rescue their boy from Rize or Die, Tyler’s militarized manifestation of Project Mayhem, the two parents set out separately. Now their own resources have brought them together again, facing down Tyler’s new host, Junior.
Does anyone remember the Daffy Duck cartoon, “The Scarlet Pumpernickel”? In it, Daffy Duck is pitching an idea about a swashbuckling hero who doesn’t know how to resolve the climax of his story. Instead, he continues to layer upon tension and story development until he himself is so overwhelmed by expectation he feels compelled to blow his brains out. Chuck Palahniuk plays that role in this story.
Fight Club was amazing story. Fight Club 2 has been amazing, as well. It has built the world of Sebastian and the character of Tyler Durden into an idea that transcends any one man. However, the ideas that drove the story clearly got further than the plot did. As the story climaxes in this issue, with Tyler having begun a nuclear attack intended to cleanse the planet, Sebastian is literally speaking to Palahniuk, receiving instructions on the phone about what to do. Most people will agree a Deus ex Machina is cheap, a thinly veiled one is even more so. However, it such a flimsy device even considered a Deus ex Machina when it fails to deliver the main characters from harm?
The last few pages aren’t spent trying to find out what happens next, eagerly fearing the worst. Instead, the reader begins scanning the last few panels hoping to see any sign the narrative will balance out. It doesn’t. The result is not simply the sense that the story was underdeveloped, it leaves the impression that there should have been a stronger editorial position that ensured the story did not become a writer work-shopping the story during the climax. Which literally happens here.
Climax and conclusion should be a part of the initial proposal for a limited story. It should be presented as evident and logical in the very beginning, long before the book goes to print. What happens instead is the readers spend forty dollars for a story that went out unfinished.
Fight Club 2 is about as high-concept as the original, but when you’re receiving each issue once a month, it takes a moment to try to get all the characters in the right place, to remind yourself the rules of the story. When it’s been several months since the last installment, it’s even more confusing. When the story itself ends with the author throwing his hands up, the stylized flower petals and floating iodine pills are no longer artistic, they are a stylized distraction from what is actually on the page.
At this point, the conclusion in the next issue can’t do much to undo the damage of this issue. The climax has been botched by uncertainty and unwelcome meta-intrusion. If there was no idea how to resolve the conflict and climax of this story, what is the point of the upcoming Fight Club 3?