Life is Strange: Dust left a lot of questions when it concluded with Max’s arrival in Santa Monica. Life is Strange #5 starts to answer those questions, but we don’t pick up right where we left off. It’s not specified just how long it’s been since Max landed in Santa Monica, but time has passed nonetheless. Because of this, LiS #5 has a lot of table-setting to do. We’re in a brand new universe and a brand new timeline. This issue wastes no time showing us what’s going on with Max and Chloe’s—and Rachel’s!— lives.

Chloe, Rachel, and Max sitting and eating together. Chloe is saying, "Damn, I needed this," and Rachel is saying, You were right, Max, it totally doesn't need the cream."

Max, Chloe, and Rachel living their Santa Monica dream

Life is Strange #5: Waves

Emma Vieceli (writer), Claudia Leonardi (artist), Andrea Izzo (colorist)
Titan Comics
May 29, 2019

Sidequest received a review copy of Life is Strange #5 in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The creative team takes their time introducing us to Max and Chloe’s new home. It’s a good thing, too, because for the first time this story is not about Arcadia Bay. While Dust began in Seattle, the story quickly turned back to their demolished home. LiS #5 firmly puts Arcadia Bay behind us. Even without the caption revealing the location, you know right away that this is different. The bright, sun-washed colors that surround Max as she enters her regular cafe would never be found in Arcadia Bay, and Leonardi and Izzo’s artwork invites us to revel in it. They lovingly fill in the exciting new environment even while they avoid a clear shot of Max’s face. We’re treated to bright, intense colors for a full page before Max is properly introduced to this story in all her full-body, coffee-sipping hipster glory. As ever in Life is Strange, the location is a character in its own right and the creative team nailed this introduction.

Once we’re introduced to Santa Monica, LiS #5 focuses primarily on the “life” in Life is Strange. The underlying conflicts of the arc are woven in and out of a few days in Max’s life. At the cafe, we learn that Max is a freelance photographer. We follow Max home, where she shares an apartment with Chloe and Rachel—who are actually, officially a couple with no room for doubt, and Max definitely wants us to believe that she’s one hundred percent okay with it. I’m not convinced, but my love of the relationship between Chloe and Max may make me a little biased. It’s a relationship that weighs heavily on Max’s mind. To her, everything that happened in Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Dust is real. The guilt she took a year confronting hasn’t disappeared, even though in this reality the storm never happened, Rachel never got taken to the Dark Room, and Chloe never met Nathan Prescott in a Blackwell bathroom.

An image of Max reaching to boop Chloe's nose is overlaid over an image of Chloe booping Max's nose in the past.

Nose boops echoing across time and space

Wrestling with an entire timeline’s worth of guilt isn’t enough to add to Max’s plate, however. A mysterious Boy in Black captures Max’s attention and won’t let go. His black ensemble makes him the darkest figure on every page, immediately standing out in every panel, but only Max ever notices him. The barista at Max’s cafe ignores him, and before Max can speak with him he always slips away unseen.

There’s much to love in Life is Strange #5, but a lot of it is in the promise of what’s to come. Those who were frustrated with the slower pacing in Dust may want to wait for a collection before jumping in here, as this issue is heavy on set-up. The coming conflicts are all well established, but they aren’t yet in full swing. On the other hand, if you enjoy a slow burn and missed out on Dust, Life is Strange #5 is a great place to get a fresh start with Max. The events of Dust are built on here, but this comic begins its own story.

With that said, the glimpses we’ve gotten are fantastic. This is the most we’ve ever seen of Max and Rachel interacting, and this Chloe has managed to heal from much of the damage we’ve seen her suffer from in the past. She’s found her home here in Santa Monica. Her blue hair blends in with the sky, and the bright color of her tattoos that made her stand out in Arcadia Bay perfectly match the backdrops of Santa Monica. Vieceli never loses track of who these characters are. Max, Chloe, and Rachel remain themselves despite this new environment. The table is set for an exciting story, and I’m eager to see it play out.

Read about the rest of Life is Strange: Waves here.