Secret Missions #1: Breakout Squad
by Ryder Windham
Published by Grosset & Dunlap
Adrick's Rating: 2 out of 4
Book one in a series of exciting new Clone Wars adventures.
A Jedi general vanishes on a distant world, leaving his young apprentice and a group of untested clone troopers to complete a dangerous secret mission.
Trapped in the vast expanse of Wild Space, in the far outskirts of the galaxy, this inexperienced team must look for assistance among a world of smugglers and criminals while evading Darth Sidiousís ruthless bounty hunter, Cad Bane. With few options and time running out, theyíll need all the help they can get!
The Secret Missions series came as a complete surprise to me. Grosset and Dunlap already has a promising Clone Wars series for young readers in Decide Your Destiny, so I never expected the launch of a second oneólet alone a series whose reoccurring main characters donít even appear in the films, something that hasnít been done since Galaxy of Fear. Since this series is penned by EU veteran Ryder Windham, I looked forward to seeing what the first installment would bring.
In Breakout Squad, Windham brings together an set of original characters with lots of potential. Thereís Nuru, a Jedi padawan of the Chiss raceóbeings still very mysterious in the Clone Wars era, but they are becoming known to Chancellor Palpatine. Thereís Cleaver, a personal assistance droid reconfigured into a deadly commando model during the story. Thereís Lalo Gunn, a female smuggler who joins the unlikely band. And then there are the clones of Breakout Squad. It never ceases to amaze me just how many fascinatingly different characters the Star Wars authors have been able to produce from the seemingly identical clones over the past seven years. These are more one-dimensional than most, but then thatís to be expected from a young adult book.
Windham has a nice premise thatís a pretty clever tie-in to the animated show: Anakin Skywalker left the Confederate supership Malevolence in pieces after three exciting episodes, and while Anakin moved on to other adventures, someone had to find out where the giant battleship came from. That job falls to the clone troopers and Nuruís master.
The rest of the story will be familiar to most RPG players. Nuru and the clones find themselves stranded on a planet controlled by the Trade Federation, and have to team up with the by-now-well-known-and-better-marketed bounty hunter Cad Bane to rescue Nuruís captured master from prison. I wouldnít be surprised if Secret Missions was originally plotted as a follow-up to the various Star Wars gamebook series Windham put out for Scholastic years ago.
Still, there are several mysterious plot points introduced in this first volume, and the characters are interesting enough to keep my attention. Iím looking forward to future installments.
My biggest complaint is that Windham didnít take full advantage of the Malevolence origin plotline. I mean, here you have a mysterious ship that showed up out of nowhere with a weapon on a scale weíve never seen before! The Jedi Alliance game even introduced a sister ship, but we still know very little about when they were constructed, who designed them, and whether there are more in the works. It all just begs for further exploration, but the mystery is dropped pretty quickly.
This position goes to gunslinger Cad Bane by default.