[Contains spoilers for Life is Strange]
If Life is Strange is a game about making choices, then Life is Strange Volume 1: Dust is a graphic novel exploring the consequences of those choices. More accurately, it explores the consequences of one specific choice in one specific timeline: saving Chloe Price’s life at the cost of Arcadia Bay and, presumably, everyone you know living there. Was it fate that Max discovered her power and saved Chloe’s life, or is the superstorm an undeserved consequence of tampering with time? There’s perhaps no choice in Life is Strange more divisive—as of this writing, the PC players have chosen 48-52 in favor of Arcadia Bay—but Life is Strange Volume 1: Dust can satisfy fans regardless of their choices.
Life is Strange Volume One: Dust
Emma Vieceli (writer), Claudia Leonardi (artist), Andrea Izzo (colorist)
May 21, 2019
Sidequest received a review copy of Life is Strange Volume 1: Dust in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Life is Strange Volume 1: Dust picks up one year after the destruction of Arcadia Bay. Max and Chloe find themselves in Seattle building a life together with the help of the High Seas, their friends in a pirate-themed band. It’s quickly clear that—in traditional Max and Chloe style—the pair haven’t processed their grief so much as put physical distance between themselves and the source. With Arcadia Bay long since vanished from the rearview mirror of Chloe’s still-crappy truck, all the horrors they escaped should be nothing but a memory, right?
Well, actually, no. In true Life is Strange style, the mundane and the supernatural intertwine to force Max and Chloe to confront their trauma. While an invitation to a remembrance ceremony at their would-be alma mater Blackwell Academy shows us just how fragile the healing they’ve accomplished is, Max begins experiencing flickers in her reality—from something as minor as a different hair color to her friends telling her that Chloe is dead. Enough is enough: Max and Chloe decide that they have to go back home to Arcadia Bay.
The idea of home continually props up in Life is Strange Volume 1: Dust. Is home Seattle, where Max and Chloe now live? Is it the crumbling ruin Chloe grew up in? For someone like Max, whose time travel abilities allow her to glimpse other realities, the question is even more muddled. With nothing but a nosebleed and a Polaroid, Max can alter the very parameters of her reality. Is home the reality she started in, or the one she chose to settle down in? For every one of these questions answered, Life is Strange Volume 1: Dust raises two more—and that’s a good thing.
I came into Life is Strange Volume 1: Dust with a lot of trepidation. The original game holds a special place in my heart, and as excited as I was to see not only a continuation, but a continuation from my preferred ending (Bae>Bay and you’ll never convince me otherwise) so much of what made the game great was the immersion that can really only happen in a video game: the lovingly curated soundtrack, the moments of peace where you can simply take in the scenery and let Max reflect on recent events, and, of course, the ability to rewind time and manipulate events until they play out the way you want. How could a static medium like a comic book replicate all of that?
My fears were largely unfounded, as it turns out. While I miss the perfectly moody soundtrack, this book feels like Life is Strange. Claudia Leonardi’s art captures the unspoken intimacy of two teenage girls who love one another but don’t know what that means yet. Andrea Izzo’s colors are warm and welcoming, bringing me back to my time exploring the twilit landscape of Blackwell Academy.
Izzo and Leonardi take the limits of Life is Strange’s graphics and turn them into a deliberate choice. The simple lines of the backgrounds let the characters pop in every panel, letting the busier scenes in the ruins of Arcadia Bay drive home the overwhelming loss Max and Chloe feel. The bright color of Chloe’s hair, clothing, and tattoos make her the first thing you see even as her pain makes her smaller and smaller.
And Emma Vieceli’s writing somehow has something for everybody—those who chose to save Arcadia Bay, or those who saw Warren as more than just a friend for Max. Even those dedicated few who paired Max with Victoria Chase get a wink and a nod. Vieceli does this without rehashing the story of Life is Strange, but by celebrating the multitude of choices that players could make—both in-game and out.
Life is Strange Volume 1: Dust does have a definite ending, but, like all good endings, it can just as easily be the beginning of another story. That’s good, because despite the original plans to be a four-issue miniseries, Titan Comics decided to upgrade Life is Strange into an ongoing series, and I eagerly await issue five to see what this creative team has in store for Max and Chloe in this one possible future.
Kaitlyn Lyons is a flailing Chicago queer fueled mostly by iced coffee. She won’t shut up about comics or her Pathfinder games and is an unrepentant fangirl of all things Elf-y. She tweets about this and more at @ArrowShootyKate.