Review by Frank Plowright
Life is Strange began as a continuation of the video game, but under Emma Vieceli and Claudia Leonardi it’s taken on a very appealing life all of its own via an emotionally tumultuous trip into a Sliding Doors style alternate life. Will this conclusion be heartbreaker or hearttaker?
Max Caulfield can rewind time, but it’s not a talent to be used lightly. She saved her girlfriend Chloe, but at the cost of their hometown being largely destroyed by a ferocious storm. She subsequently jumped to an alternate timeline, and seemed stuck there until coming across Tristan, who may be her way home. The complexities of following two narratives with largely the same people in different incarnations was streamlined in Echoes, which ended with a festival cancelled due to an impending storm. Is it the means for Max to return home, or another disaster?
Firstly, new readers, should there be such people, are advised to begin at the start five volumes back, or to read the synopsis and character notes very carefully. There are no other concessions to anyone who hasn’t followed Max’s journey from the beginning, and Settling Dust involves frequent switches between two sets of the same folk on different Earths.
As before, Leonardi has the difficult task of distinguishing people, usually by variations in hairstyle, and as before the art is wonderful. Every emotional twist is there in Leonardi’s characters, in their faces, the way they stand or sit, and she puts some effort into decorations also. As if all that’s not enough, a coda to the main story features a whole bunch of new characters to be designed tying in with new Life is Strange game True Colors.
The suspenseful part of Settling Dust is over by midway, as Vieceli opts for the resolution any reader wants to see, as if that was ever in doubt. The reason for tying things up earlier than other writers might is to allow more space for the strong emotional drama that’s underpinned the entire story, except no longer with threat or fear hanging over it. From midway Vieceli’s able to take a leisurely stroll around the cast to show how adversity has moulded them. There is some heartbreak, but most tears will be joyful. Yeah, don’t be afraid to cry. You’ll feel better for it.
Given a feature derived from another artform most writers wouldn’t have the courage to do what Vieceli’s done with Life is Strange, as the price of failure would be so public. She has included elements of the game, but the priority has been progressing the characters and bringing about real change. A conclusion drawn is that people are shaped by their experiences, and that will presumably also apply to Vieceli’s triumph here to be carried on to future projects.
Because Life is Strange is so complex, it would read even better as a single edition collecting all six volumes, so may that happen, and soon, please.