Life Is Strange: Coming Home #1 begins the penultimate arc in the Life Is Strange comic series. Shocking revelations will gratify fans reading this double-sized issue. Simmering with multiverse developments, Coming Home procures long-anticipated answers to questions posed throughout the series. The comic saga has been lauded as a stellar story bridging gaps between the first and second Life Is Strange video games. Therefore, it comes at no surprise that the latest comic installment continues demonstrating an acute understanding of the Life Is Strange universe — and characters Max Caulfield and Chloe Price.
In Max and Chloe’s original universe timeline where Max sacrificed Arcadia Bay to save Chloe and the two fell in love, reality-phaser Tristan fights for a way to cross back into Max’s new timeline. Pixie, drummer for the traveling band “High Seas”, finally confronts herself, Tristan, and the original Chloe about her own connection to the transect. Pixie’s powers were hinted at during the last Life Is Strange comic arc. In Coming Home #1, Pixie reveals herself as able to see alternate possibilities during an event. This revelation contains extreme ramifications for Tristan and emphasizes Pixie’s role in both realities.
On the alternate side of the temporal divide, Chloe’s anger toward Max persists. While exploring Carlsbad Canyons with Chloe’s girlfriend Rachel Amber and Rachel’s theatre troupe, Max tries to make amends for recklessly rewinding time without telling Chloe and casting Tristan out of this timeline in the process. Rachel Amber eventually forces Max and Chloe to apologize to one another in a heartfelt conversation that releases the tension between the friends.
Meanwhile, original timeline Chloe, Pixie, and Tristan realize Chloe’s existence in each reality serves as the navigating source for reality-jumping. Tristan locates the Chloe in the “living Rachel Amber” string. Their joyous reunion steers the group back on to their original mission to reunite Max with her Chloe in the Arcadia Bay universe after two years of their split across the transect. In order to achieve their goals, Max and Tristan must work together and teach the new timeline’s Pixie how to hone her powers. But a fortune teller foretells an incoming storm heralding a new beginning. New beginnings aren’t unfamiliar to Chloe and Max, and unfortunately, neither are storms. These actions will have consequences.
The Life Is Strange comic series consistently excels in voice, characterization, and genuine depictions of emotion. Emma Viecelli’s artist background obviously aids her storytelling skills. Coming Home #1 showcases Viecelli’s aptitude for both story direction and pacing. Previously, I felt that the last arc dragged somewhat. Now, in retrospect, I am more appreciative of the slower pacing and expansive character work Viecelli displayed in Vol. 4. Every event and hint at Pixie’s burgeoning powers climaxes in Coming Home #1. Truly, I am astonished at Viecelli’s ability to write so contextually. All the prior foreshadowing about Pixie and Tristan’s connection, as well as Chloe’s duality in both strings emboldens the payoffs of Life Is Strange’s butterfly effect theme.
Illustrator Claudia Leonardi and colorist Andrea Izzo also return to saturate Coming Home #1 with a gorgeous, down-to-earth ambiance. Throughout the whole comic series, coloring and outfit designs prevail as paramount in timeline delineations. Similar color palettes in Coming Home can make distinguishments a little tricky. Still, the original timeline maintains a darker, looser aesthetic separating visuals from the vivid color choices in Max’s alternate universe.
Sentimentality runs high in Coming Home #1. Tears are shed, friendships are stitched back together, and astonishment threads through the issue. Leonardi draws emotion realistically with cartoonish stylism that only adds to the comics’ visible appeal. Tender moments where Max bows her head in defeat or closes her eyes with hands crossed across her chest permit reverberate with emotion. Leonardi positions faces closely in panels and often repeats images with slight alterations. Accented by Izzo’s muted colors, panels hosting close-framed profiles communicate the precise instance characters’ internal friction unspools.
Letterers Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt buoy the saccharine ambiance. Font sizes inside speech bubbles are reduced every time Chloe trails off, overwhelmed with sadness from missing Max. Whenever Chloe and Max share a scene, eye contact or an aversion thereof disseminates either tension or adoration respectively. Essentially, Izzo matches eye colors to their video game counterparts. Shining mixtures of blue hues make Max and Chloe’s pupils particularly expressive. Leonardi and Izzo translate the video games’ signature quiet beauty through thoughtful artistry.
Despite the combination of two issues into one oversized single issue, Coming Home #1 never feels tediously long. Due attention is given to Pixie, who has thus far been a background character, as she struggles to comprehend her powers. Winks at a possible love interest for Tristan add character dimensions. Even the two-page backup introducing Alex Chen, protagonist for the upcoming Life Is Strange: True Colors video game, acts as a welcome addition to the issue. The page where Max clutches Chloe’s letter to her chest as Tristan stresses the unbreakable tether between Max and Chloe is a moment readers needed as soon as possible.
Max and Chloe have been separated for over a dozen issues now. The gravity of actions taken here don’t trend toward a reconnection within this fourth arc. Nevertheless, Coming Home #1 pushes its characters and their abilities to the limit. This installment drives the story forward with a renewed vigor, insinuating the retooling of loose narrative threads sooner rather than later. Ghosts of the past transect the crisscrossing strings of the present in Coming Home #1. All that’s left is to ride the waves while an impending storm catapults Max home in the final Life Is Strange issues.