"Life Is Strange #9": Rewinds emotions through time

Updated: Oct 16, 2019

Written by Emma Vieceli, illustrated by Claudia Leonardi and Andrea Izzo.

"Life Is Strange #9" cover art by Claudia Leonardi

Readers of comics and sci-fi stories and consumers of pop culture are well acquainted with one single concept from theoretical Physics: time travel. Time travel as a literary trope serves as the most lucrative form of deus ex machina or narrative background. It can save a story, or ruin it, or give it narrative immortality.

Life Is Strange: Strings is the story of Max Caulfield, a photographer who can rewind time, and Chloe Price her artist best friend. Set after the canonical events of the Interactive Game of the same name from which the comics sprung and follows the story after the two four-part mini-series, Life Is Strange: Dust and Life Is Strange: Waves.

As a non-gamer reader, I had a bit of a hard time understanding the beginning and the context of the series. Issue 9, which continues after the events of Waves and explores the themes of honesty and spirit of friendship. Max, who has been flickering (Time Leaping) through multiple timelines, has been living in this new earth where Chloe her best friend has not lost her lover Rachel, and the Hurricane that destroyed Arcadia Bay from the game timeline has not happened here.

Issue 9 had limited scope of action in art as the story concentrated on Max figuring out what she wants, and if this is the timeline she wants to inhabit. Most of the panels were set inside the apartment of Chloe and Rachel. Max’s dilemma is interesting; she is in love with Chloe Price from the timeline she left in Dust. She is happy to inhabit this new earth where tragedy has not happened, but Chloe of this timeline is head over heels in love with Rachel. The choice between the love of a lover and the love of a friend is what drives Max. Tristan the homeless teen who can turn invisible is the compass needle to Max’s shifting north. I personally found his addition to the story a bit annoying, it took him few issues to find his courage, his trauma is similar to Max’s which makes him an interesting foil to Max. And yet he is a bigger trouble magnet than Max. I don’t see any "plot bonus points" on him.

The strongest suit is the writing; the dialogues are natural and capture the emotional strains of the character. Chloe’s acceptance of the confusing situation shows through her expressions and words. Rachel and Tristan’s heartfelt conversation, in the end, was beautifully written and illustrated; it was funny and morbid at the same time. The characters really talk here and not crowd the panels as mob characters. Dexter "fanboying" about Rachel’s make-up videos is wholesome and so refreshing!

The art style and the colouring have a soft spot in my heart, but I really missed the lucid time jumps and characters from different timelines fading in and out, and Max flickering. The art is much more restrained compared to the previous issues. The panels have been used to the fullest to portray space crunch and immediacy of the story. There is also a colourful and bright cameo of the band named The High Seas, who are close buddies of Max and Chloe in the Dust timeline. I definitely love the character design and diversity, a drummer in Hijab, a lesbian couple who are supportive of each other, people with piercing and tattoos and colourful hair, these are regular young people trying to figure out life. No girl caters to the male gaze and no boy presents an obscure sense of masculinity and they all have ordinary physical appearances.

Though I am not a big fan of time travel and rewinding, especially one that speaks of infinite timelines born of butterfly effects, I am eagerly waiting to find out how far string theory can stretch.

Life Is Strange #9 from Titan Comics is available from October 16, 2019.

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