Review by Frank Plowright
Life is Strange has acquired the mystifying new subtitle of Partners in Crime since we last caught up with the cast in Strings, but this is a direct continuation. That it needs a four page illustrated synopsis shows just how complicated Max Caulfield’s story has become since the creative team of Emma Vieceli and Claudia Leonardi began moving Max away from the circumstances of the Life is Strange game. In one sense, this is not the place to start, but the recap does its job well. Briefly, Max has discovered that it is possible to make her way back to her own world, but she didn’t manage it, although Tristan, who accompanied her attempt, is there. It means there’s hope.
The complexities continue because we’re now following one bunch of characters on tour as a rock band and another set touring a play, along with their dopelgangers on another world. Max is stuck in one world, while Tristan now associates with the Chloe of her former world, recognisable via slightly more vivid hair colour. Attention is required as we’re seeing essentially the same people in the same places, but on different worlds, so not exactly the same people.
Vieceli supplies some nice storytelling moments, such as Max first rewinding time here, or the second chapter toilet conversation, but this isn’t the same triumph earlier volumes have been despite the usual classy art job from Leonardi. It’s because instead of the focus being on a central triangle with other cast members bouncing off them, Tracks features around ten characters along with their alternate world counterparts, and that’s spreading the attention far too thin. Moments of consequence are almost lost, and for three chapters we’re getting a lot of very nicely drawn holiday snapshots. Vieceli has meandered a slow path to a pivotal event before, but here there’s not enough charm to go round.
There is a payoff, and it’s good, just a long time in coming, and it throws everything into confusion once again as well as dropping a big surprise about someone we’ve seen not quite behaving oddly, but certainly perhaps aware. The final chapter is very satisfying, there’s just too much ordinary material beforehand.
As the series looks to have now expanded to encompass another trilogy, these Life is Strange graphic novels have been a success. It’s nice to see quality recognised, especially as this hasn’t been an intense drama, but one at times of quiet desperation. Both creators are very talented, and this is only a slight dip. Coming Home follows.