Fight Club 3 #1
Written by Chuck Palahniuk
Art by Cameron Stewart and Dave McCaig
Lettered by Nate Piekos
Published by Dark Horse Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Chuck Palahniuk’s comic book sequel to his cult novel was divisive - and that was pretty much the point. Messing with expectations and calling out the misrepresentation of his work in its various forms, Palahniuk’s darker middle-aged meta-crisis morphed Tyler Durden into an even more subversive and darker force than he ever was before. With this sequel to his comic book sequel, the writer and his phenomenal art team of Cameron Stewart and Dave McCaig take a more leisurely but no less arresting journey into the 21st century version of these characters.
Palahniuk has referred to the concept of the “second father” in various interviews, and here he opens with suburban slump at its most sedate. Balthazar née Sebastian née the unnamed narrator of the original story are in a mid-winter malaise, visually represented by Stewart and McCaig as a fly-covered calendar of minutiae. His wife Marla is heavily pregnant with her second child, although Balthazar’s increasingly separate alter ego Tyler Durden may be the father. Balthazar is unable to secure a job as Tyler emerges to have his way with women he meets on the road.
It’s all wrapped up with fragments of a mostly dialogue-free story about pieces of adorable dog art that has people weeping with joy, Rize or Die militia shooting up a job fair, and a mysterious figure in a black trench-coat carrying a briefcase of Nazi gold. These pieces don’t necessarily all seem to fit together for the moment and that seems to be intentional. Palahniuk is in no hurry to give us any clues either, relying on partners in art to lead the reader to their own conclusions.
The discombobulating art is the star of the show, with the now experienced comics writer Palahniuk wise enough to step aside and let Stewart and McCaig do their magnificent thing. The devil is in the details: a painter is introduced via a series of tight panels (a thumb, an eye, a bit lip, a palette), Balthazar wears overlapping name tags, blueprint maps of a community center visually introduce another plot point, and the deliberately amateur dog art might be some of Cameron’s finest achievements.
As with the previous volume, Stewart and McCaig add an extra level of dimensionality by placing objects on top of and between the panels. Scattered pills are replaced initially with popcorn before panels are increasingly covered in flies. They crawl between frames, across faces, and into cleavage. It might speak to entropy and decay present in Balthazar’s closed world, but we all know what proverbially attracts flies. (Hint: it might be similar to the disturbingly tactile substance Balthazar brings up all over the final page).
McCaig’s color art adds yet another layer of meaning to every carefully placed panel, juxtaposing the whites and blues of Marla’s cold wintery home life with the warm reds, pinks, and oranges of the seedy barroom moments. In a complete contrast with the red hot and explosive passion of Marla and Tyler in the previous volume, McCaig throws a cold blue cast as we watch Tyler “nail the opening” (to paraphrase Marla). It speaks volumes to the disconnection Balthazar has to his ‘partner’ in chaos.
Since Fight Club 2, Palahniuk has gone deeper down the self-reflective path with his 2018 novel Adjustment Day, his Vonnegut-esque exploration of the fringes that holds up a middle finger to haters and lovers alike. So if the opening to Fight Club 3 isn’t as explosively in your face as its predecessor, and we don’t learn a whole lot that we didn’t know at the end of Part 2, one suspects it’s only because Palahniuk is getting warmed up.