While still glowing with art by Claudia Leonardi and Andrea Izzo as Emma Vieceli’s writing for Max, Chloe, and Rachel continues to hold up, the penultimate issue of the current arc in the Life Is Strange comic series starts seeing some unfortunate cracks. The reveal, or lack thereof, with the stranger—who finally gets a name, Tristan—is a little underwhelming. In terms of plot and worldbuilding, we get a power explanation and not much else. Tristan essentially claims he doesn’t know much about where his powers come from, and gives no indication that they’re related to Max’s abilities.
They probably are connected though. In any case, Tristan is apparently clueless, and now comes off as sort of useless to the plot. Then again, he could be lying; but that’s only a possibility, and it’s not helping the story’s quality at the moment.
On top of that, while there’s likely at least some expectation to sympathize with Tristan’s revealed backstory, it’s a little hard to do that when he’s been more of a question mark than an actual character before this moment. When the issue opens with him looking significantly different in a flashback featuring a bunch of brand new characters, and one of them suddenly dies, it falls flat emotionally and feels like extraneous noise.
Sometimes abrupt scenes like this work, but it doesn’t here. This splash of new information comes a little late in the arc to generate any real investment. Even Max’s sympathy for Tristan isn’t enough to convince me to care that much about him. With the majority of the current storyline devoted to Max, Chloe, and Rachel, there’s not much room left to significantly invest in any more characters in issue three of what’s supposed to be a four-part arc. It’s not an impossible task but tricky to do, and the Life Is Strange comics fall short of that here.
And honestly, what little we have of Tristan’s character isn’t that appealing. His earlier brusqueness with Max—while sort of understandable—wasn’t the most endearing, especially with how much has gone into making Max sympathetic. Later you get the sense that you’re supposed to believe him and sympathize when he says his parents don’t care about him, but he comes off as more whiny than anything else. The audience only has Tristan’s side of the story, and who knows how accurate that is. Besides, the audience still barely knows him.
Then in an almost eye-rolling moment, Tristan hits a plot point that feels a little contrived at the moment. He apparently just happens to find a bag of drugs—plus a gun—while scavenging for a meal near a party that Max is attending, and he ends up in the crosshairs of some angry drug dealers. Max’s alarm at Tristan possibly getting shot falls flat in light of this clunky coincidence. Additionally, Tristan’s more a plot device than anything else, and Max is alone in her concern; I’m just not feeling it. The hints of something else going on with the issue’s final pages are more interesting; but I’m apathetic toward the implication that Tristan’s in trouble.
While there were hints of drugs at the party Rachel’s friend threw, and even inklings of rising crime in the city during the arc’s first issue, it still feels a little forced when Tristan just stumbles on the drugs. Even his drug-fueled backstory at the beginning of the issue doesn’t help that much in terms of build-up to this point. It feels less like a full circle and more like it literally just happened, and it doesn’t have time to narratively sink in.
There’s unfortunately been a lot to say about Tristan, and that’s because virtually every scene he has just drags this issue down. Again, the issue starts with his flashback and ends with his apparent fate as a cliffhanger. But Tristan’s presence kind of now borders on overkill without enough of a substantial setup to warrant it. What came before in previous issues now feels more like a dragged out mystery capped off by an unsatisfying info dump. Yes, he’s a rare nonwhite character, but his writing is lacking.
In light of this, Chloe is even more relatable when she doesn’t understand what seems like Max’s immediate bond with a stranger like Tristan. While that does practically make sense—Tristan’s the only other magnet of weirdness Max has run into—Chloe’s sentiment feels particularly valid at this point, both in-story and on a meta level.
It’s a shame that we get so much Tristan and zero High Seas. After the welcome reveal with the High Seas last issue—characters that the Life Is Strange comics have taken time to somewhat develop and build sympathy for—they’re no-shows in this issue, only getting a mention and nothing else. They will likely show up next issue, but their absence immediately after their reveal is odd. It unfortunately shortens their overall presence in the second arc even more. And frankly, having the High Seas in this issue would have been a breath of fresh air.
All in all, so far this has been the weakest issue among the Life Is Strange comics. Whether it will regain lost ground for a better wrap-up—or at least finish with a more emotionally gripping cliffhanger—will be revealed in next month’s concluding issue of the “Waves” arc.
Do you disagree and think this issue of Life is Strange was better? What do you think will happen in the finale of this arc? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.