It is an adventure story centering on the memories of a young boy recalling a time in his life when the world of the everyday intersected with the extraordinary.
The format is a bit different from most online graphic stories, which are posted a page or a few panels at a time; the first chapter of The Wormworld Saga was just posted complete; a necessity in this case because the entire chapter, in a variation of Scott McCloud’s “infinite canvas” concept, is essentially one long scrolling page, with the panels interconnected by larger passages and shared backgrounds.
The comic is read by scrolling down (something seemingly particularly appropriate for reading on the iPad), and though there are sections that might be considered “pages” in that their content and panel format is related, they defy the boundaries of conventional page layout.
Unlike some artists who have experimented with the online comics format and the conventions of how comics stories are read, Lieske hasn’t indulged in experimentation at the expense of graphic storytelling fundamentals, and his story reads well, flows nicely and is easy to follow.
The story, though only one chapter long so far, also stands out for its pace, more like an actual novel than the pace of most comics, which tend to proceed like a movie or television show, in which the narrative is compressed. Lieske seems comfortable with a pace that allow him to build up background and narrative texture; though the story is told well enough that there is no feeling of lag or delay.
The most outstanding characteristic of The Wormworld Saga, however, is Lieske’s artwork, which is highly accomplished, quite original and wonderfully realized.
Lieske is a digital painter by profession, both in his illustration and his game related concept art (you can see his professional portfolio here). He has applied his skills with digital painting tools to the images for the story in way that is delightfully painterly; and no, I don’t think applying the description “painterly” to a digital medium is a misuse of the term, it refers to the application of color in patches that look and feel like physical brush strokes.
Combined with a cinematic feeling for drama, his painterly textures and judiciously applied details give the story an emotional resonance and sense of place and time.
Lieske created a page called The Wormworld Saga Exhibitions, in which he talks about the project and its origins. he also maintains a blog which likewise features background on the story and art, as well as a personal website with sections for his other projects, including galleries of digital painting and sketches, and a page about the artist. There is also a page for ordering prints that should go live sometime this month.
If Lieske continues his practice of creating an entire chapter before posting, the next installment of The Wormworld Saga may take a while to arrive; but the current chapter ends in a way that will allow us to wait, and the next chapter should be worth waiting for.