I read this issue for the first time probably about a month ago (definitely before the move), but I haven’t revisited until this past week when I was thinking that I really needed to try to get back onto a regular blogging schedule (we see how well that’s working out). I recall making a vague prediction at the end of part three of this arc that Tristan would serve as a springboard for Max to jump back into the time stream and leave these particular versions of Chloe and Rachel to enjoy what happiness they have together while she figures out where she actually belongs. Low key super-powered problem solver was always a fun mode to see Max operating in back in the original game, even if we understood that all her little correctives were probably contributing to the massive storm careening towards Arcadia Bay.
Despite being aware of that likely cost to adjusting the timeline, it’s incredibly satisfying to see her do a rewind, especially in order to save Tristan’s life. Max has been keeping a lid on her powers for over two years (three if we count the year she spent in the timeline where Arcadia Bay was destroyed), and in all that time the major question that’s been brewing is what circumstances would push her to rewind time again. The central problem of the first arc was so focused on her powers manifesting in a new, uncontrolled way, and her inner arc in this story has been about feeling she needs to suppress an important part of herself to be accepted by her friends, that it feels good to see her reclaim this thing that belongs to her. Yeah, there will probably be consequences, but at some point the universe needs to either make it apparent how Max’s rewinding reverberates or she needs to accept that there are always going to be unforeseen consequences of her actions and she can’t let them paralyze her decision making. Whatever the fallout of saving Tristan’s life may be, we should keep in mind that this is still a Max who originally decided that saving a friend’s life was more important than being weighted down by an aftermath that may or may not have been her doing.
Compare all of these beats in Max’s story with where Tristan’s arc goes. His backstory with Atsuhiko is an inverse of Max and Chloe’s reunion in the Blackwell Academy bathroom. Tristan’s powers manifested at a moment of crisis that precipitated his best friend’s death. The fault lies squarely with the drug dealer who shot Atsuhiko, but Tristan’s trauma leaves him directly correlating his disappearing power with Atsuhiko dying. His decision to go to Chloe and Rachel for help, and then to use his powers to help save Max in return, brings things full circle as he finds that he’s able to help people instead of just running away from what he fears.
A slightly smaller, but still interesting development in this issue is Rachel Amber’s realization of how close she still is to the shallow, image-focused LA life that her work friends all still inhabit. The drug overdose with her friend Callie serves as a reality check for her, especially after she notices the rest of the party goers instinctively using the incident as an opportunity for some publicity and cheap drama on their respective media feeds. The epiphany feels good as Rachel has always been a character who seemed just on the verge of getting caught up in the image-driven life, but it feels even better when she takes this impulse and channels it towards even greater good when she uses a livestream direct to her social media followers as a way to force the drug dealers to back down from threatening Max and Tristan. It’s a somewhat surreal inversion of the usually sinister bent associated with the constant self-surveillance that social media often represents, but it fits perfectly with who Rachel is at her best.
Compared with the rest of the story’s main cast, Chloe doesn’t strike me as having completed much of a major arc at this point. I suspect, given that Max doesn’t actually jump to a new timeline at the end of this issue and elements of the old timeline have slowly been bleeding into Chloe’s consciousness, that Vieceli is building towards something larger for Chloe that will likely culminate with the next arc of the series. I’ve wondered on and off how long this comic series could go on, and just like with the end of the first story arc I was pleasantly surprised to see that another was being planned. I’m enjoying seeing more adventures with Max and Chloe, so I hope that it remains an ongoing for a while yet, although I’m pretty sure I’ll be satisfied if it ends at twelve issues so long as Max finds herself in a timeline where she can be with Chloe (Vieceli continues to give off strong Chloe/Max shipping vibes, so I hold out hope that’s her end game).
In the meantime though, we get to look forward to a little more time spent with relatively happy Chloe and Rachel in LA, which means that Max needs to do some work on her relationships. The big development of the issue in terms of relationships is Max’s decision to explain everything to these versions of Rachel and Chloe. It’s a big step given how scared Max has been about letting anyone know about her powers, and I’m curious to see the fallout. It can’t be easy to have to explain to your best friends that you originate from a timeline where one of them was violently murdered and the other rebounded from that trauma into a romantic relationship that you never quite felt lived up to what it replaced. It has to mess with a person’s head.