I’m not much of a fan of 3D-rendered comics (often referred to as “Poser comics” after the Poser art rendering software program). I’ll admit that part of the reason is similar to my dislike of cut-and-paste art in comics; I enjoy seeing the artistic evolution of the cartoonist over time, and using 3D rendering software almost feels like cheating to me. That’s secondary however to the “Uncanny Valley” effect that I often suffer when viewing most rendered comics; 3D rendering programs can often create characters and art that looks close to reality, but are off just enough that there is a sense of Other to the characters and artwork. This sense of Other can make it difficult to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the story for itself; while computer and rendering technology has been advancing over the past few years, it’s difficult to find a high-quality-yet-cost-efficient rendering program. Thus I can count the number of rendered comics I read on one hand.
When I started reading Requiem, I fully expected to read a couple dozen comics and then give up once the Uncanny Valley effect started messing with me big-time. As I read backward from the latest few comics, I soon found myself not caring that the comic was rendered; instead, I was curious as to what was going on and after a score or so of comics I took the plunge and started from the beginning. I suspect part of the way cartoonist James Roden helps avert the Uncanny Valley effect is through the use of shadows and shading; often (especially in older comics) a character’s face would be in shadows, and the sense of Other is averted because you don’t get a close look at the person’s face. Upgrades in rendering software are likely part of the reason the UV is averted in more recent comics. Interestingly enough, there are times when the Uncanny Valley effect is courted by Roden… and these moments (which include odd eye-coloration) actually have in-story reasons behind them.
It would take far too long to explain the back story behind Requiem; it’s not really important to the plot as a whole. If I were to try to sum up the comic, I’d call it an end-of-the-world plot, with the protagonists struggling to prevent the End Times while multiple ancient plots tangle and threaten to destroy everything (which suits the comic’s title; requiems being a chant or dirge for the repose of the dead). It’s a theme often visited in a multitude of cliched plots and stories of old, but somehow Roden manages to weave this together and craft a compelling read. Part of this is due to the characters (and this is a definite ensemble cast, with a half dozen different storylines weaved together at any one time); both protagonists and the majority of the antagonists are believable and quite human. The non-human characters are sufficiently off that they’re believable (outside of artwork that… well, let’s just say I found the insectoid Threllichock to be fairly lackluster artistically); there’s enough sense of Other with the nonhumans and their attempts to fit into human society that you get the sense they’re not just funny-looking people. For the most part, that is.
(As a small aside, I recommend that anyone planning a post-apocalyptic world as a comic or story setting to read this Wiki article. Most post-apocalyptic worlds seem to ignore the fact that the majority of cities (especially in coastal or river regions) will be mostly gone within 200 years. Even “safe” nuclear reactors will fail within months without maintenance; the few intact structures archaeologists have found are either massive or build of solid stone and are often in arid regions (and in a few cases, sheltered by cliffs and caves). After seven thousand years, there shouldn’t be anything significant intact in terms of cities or towns, and any ruins would pretty much be foundations and a couple walls. Sure, most people don’t realize this… but that’s no reason not to get it right if you’re telling this type of story.)
The one real flaw that Requiem suffers from is that it is complex; the comic has been updating five times a week since September of 2004, and there’s several major storylines and a number of secondary storylines ongoing. It can be difficult identifying some of the secondary characters, especially if they’ve not been seen in a while (though Roden does have a tendency to include character identifiers from time to time to give readers a heads up on what’s obvious to the other characters). I’ll admit that I confused two sets of secondary characters for a bit; given an archive crawl will take days, it’s not exactly easy to just go back and review what you’ve already read in an effort to distinguish characters or stories. Fortunately, Roden’s use of ComicPress (and the use of character-specific tags which allows readers to follow updates on specific characters if they’re so inclined) helps organize things for readers who are more interested on specific characters (should you remember just which character is which).
Requiem manages to merge science fiction and fantasy effectively. Early mysticism and supernatural elements appear to have scientific explanations behind them (though some of it, such as the “powers” (psychic and otherwise), is definitely on the soft side of science fiction). Even with the gradual shift from fantasy to science fiction, there are plenty of unexplained phenomena to go around, and mysteries to dazzle the greatest fantasy fan. If you’ve a weekend free, I definitely have to recommend Requiem. You may wish to take a notepad with you to jot down notes and keep track of things, but this is part and parcel for truly epic storytelling… and there are few webcomics out there with quite as grand a scope.
Addendum note: I should add that Requiem is NSFW due to nudity (though the first several years used blocking shots to conceal the nudity), sexual situations, and violence. Reader discretion is advised.