With will.i.am and the Black Eyed Peas getting top billing on this graphic novel, you’d be forgiven for wondering if it’s some kind of pop spin-off. However, while music plays a large part in the plot, what you’ll actually find within these pages is a superhero and zombie apocalypse cross-over that examines some of the tough problems facing kids today, wrapped in a hip, youth-friendly (if a bit sweary) package.
At the story’s foundation lies the ogre of racism and the effect that decades of prejudice has had on black communities in America. The most poverty-stricken ghettos, such as those found in areas of Los Angeles where this story is set, are themselves breeding grounds of intolerance and infighting. Drugs and gang life can look like the only escape for people who’ve had their future taken away.
will.i.am and his associates extrapolate this into a new drug that literally turns people into zombies. They also trace a mythological timeline back to ancient Egypt, bringing godlike superpowers to rappers and musicians, who the story heralds as the new prophets of their age. It’s a complex melting pot of ideas, but it brings a lot of background into what’s otherwise a fairly mundane plot.
Damion Scott’s art has an authentic hip-hop feel about it, and brings a lot to the piece. It’s a bold and striking style but it occasionally gets lost in an overwhelming cast of characters.
Masters of the Sun is a grand idea made flesh but in places it feels like the execution doesn’t do justice to the concept. The dialogue is pithy and real, but it loses traction because it’s overwrought. Lastly, while a satisfactory ending for the characters is inevitable in this kind of book, it didn’t do much to tackle some of the wider issues it explores, which is a shame, since you could almost wish for a zombie apocalypse if it became the catalyst that finally destroyed racial hatred amongst the living.