Secret Missions #2: Curse of the Black Hole Pirates
by Ryder Windham
Published by Grosset & Dunlap
Adrick's Rating: 3 out of 4
Book two in a series of exciting new Clone Wars adventures.
Jedi Padawan Nuru Kungurama and the clone troopers of Breakout Squad—Breaker, Knuckles, Sharp, and Chatterbox—are sent on a diplomatic mission to the Unknown Regions by Chancellor Palpatine. Travelling with renegade cargo pilot Lalo Gunn in the Hasty Harpy, the young Jedi and his clone escorts are in for an unexpected surprise as they encounter the infamous Black Hole Pirates.
Curse of the Black Hole Pirates is a well spun tale of swashbuckling, mystery, humor and adventure…Windham has really hit all the high notes here. And plus, pirates. And an awesome cover! (I got a poster version from the official Fan Club, which is pretty awesome.) I mean, what more could you ask for?
In this installment, Kungurama finally comes face-to-face with a member of his own race for the first time. Kungurama is a Chiss; the same race that Grand Admiral Thrawn belongs to, and his scenes with the Chiss ambassador Veeren are the best in the book. Kungurama’s rabid curiosity is brushed aside by Veeren, who is a spot-on Chiss; completely hostile and secretive.
The adventure picks up when the Separatists strike at a Chiss space station, forcing Kungurama and Breakout Squad to take Veeren along during their escape. They end up in orbit around a mysterious black hole…and encounter the gang of pirates who have taken their name from their stellar prison. The only hope of escape lies in a Kwa Star Temple…but I’d hate to give too much away.
Fans of the Expanded Universe minutiae will undoubtedly find a lot to like about Black Hole Pirates; the titular pirates were first mentioned in one of the early Marvel comic books, and the Kwa Star Temples first appeared in one of the few issues of Dark Horse’s Republic series that has yet to be reprinted.
But it’s not just all the preexisting EU lore that has been folded into the story that makes this installment compelling. The clone characters are beginning to be fleshed out; and I really enjoyed their banter. Windham has also introduced a very mysterious conspiracy involving most of the villains of the Clone Wars: Cad Bane, Ventress, Dooku, and Palpatine all make appearances here, hinting at some larger plot behind the events of this and the previous book. It’s that mystery that has me waiting impatiently for the next Secret Missions.
The few things I didn’t like about Curse of the Black Hole Pirates (I really love typing that title!) are mostly minor nitpicks: the Black Hole Gang here is a little tame; particularly given the tough reputation they had in other sources, and the parallels between Lalo Gunn and Han Solo are a little too overt.
My only big disappointment was that it doesn’t seem likely that Veeren will be returning any time soon. The conflict between her innate distrust of outsiders and Nuru’s intense curiosity about his own race was really engaging—they make an interesting team.
Cad Bane watching a pirated copy of The Bounty Hunters’ Guild’s Greatest Hits: Volume VII. Way to set a bad example for the younglings, Bane.