Three friends Ruth, Anne and Teri are starting a new school after their old school closes down. They are a bit nervous about their first day and it does not start out well. They have a run in with a group of troublemakers, led by a girl named Mel. They don’t make a good impression with the other students either or with one of the teachers, Mrs. Stead. The only highlight of their first day is for Anne who is a computer fanatic, she is happy to see that Millpark has better computer facilities than their old school. The girls think they will get in more trouble when another teacher catches them in the computer room. They are pleasantly surprised when Miss. Brown is friendly with them, she is a French teacher and while she says she doesn’t know much about computers but she does encourage Anne’s interest.
The next day they run into the two girls Mel and Patti, but are surprised when some other girls come to their defence. Even Mrs Stead turns out to be more friendly, she was just stressed the first day. They still think Miss Brown is the nicest teacher and are surprised to hear that no other students or teachers seem to like her. They see a different side to Miss Brown when she sticks up for Mel’s gang over their new friends and later they see her giving money to Mel. They follow Miss Brown and see her going for French lessons. They decide they have to solve this mystery. Miss Brown seeing them nosing around, tells them she’s not really a teacher but a policewoman, undercover.
Although she doesn’t tell them what she’s investigating the girl’s suspect it has something to do with Mel. Later Anne meets Mel at computer shop and gets talking to her, she tells her that Miss Brown buys her games, one is particularly difficult where you play a hacker. When they are at the school and see police talking about fraud, they see Miss Brown is ready to make a run for it and a phone call proves she is not actually a policewoman. The girls get Mel and her gang to delay Miss Brown while they get the police. Realising Miss Brown was going to let Mel take the fall for the money fraud, Mel is grateful to the girls. The girls are glad to settle into Millpark, although Anne has been put off computers knowing that she must have been Miss Brown’s second choice to use her computer skills.
Leon a computer whizz, has gone missing. While everyone believes he ran off due to school pressure, his brother Rick thinks that something has happened to him. He confides in Kim of his theory and later in computer studies she believes him. when she sees a message from Leon on her computer screen, it says “Help my name is Leon I am being held prisoner”. Unfortunately instead of taking the time to read the rest of the message, she runs to show Rick the message but it has disappeared by the time they comes back. Neither her friend Zoe nor teacher Mr. King believe it was there. Kim and Rick have a lead as they know the message came from a striped disk. Having met the delivery guy earlier, they track him down, and find out that there was 6 disks altogether, 3 were delivered to the school, another 2 to a scientist and the last one to a hospital.
Both Kim and Rick work together to try and find the disks. They find the second disk at the school but it is blank. They track down the scientist, but he wiped the disks as he thought the message was just some game. Kim is reluctant to go to the hospital as her mother works there. Also she worries that Rick’s interest in her is only because he wants her to help him. When she finds his notebook, she finds out a bit more about Rick’s relationship with his brother. He was jealous of Leon and he hopes he can find him and put things right between them. He also mentions how he feels about Kim and wishes they could go out under normal circumstances. This is enough to convince Kim to sneak around the hospital.
They find the message from Leon and discover Mr. King is involved with the kidnappers who want Leon to crack a bank code. Before they can read the message further they have to hide from a woman coming into the room. She accidentally spills coffee onto the disk ruining it. Rick and Kim are caught and Kim gets in trouble with her mother. They are taken to see the headmaster, coincidentally at the same time his secretary is about to use the last disk. Seeing the message, Leon is rescued, Mr King is arrested and of course Kim and Rick don’t get into any trouble now the full story is known.
These two short stories have some similarities as they are both set around school and have computer related mysteries. Both seem to have the theme that if a teacher takes an interest in your computer skills you should not trust them! Also both the antagonists are also using computers to try and hack banks.
In The Millpark Mystery the jumping point for the mystery is Miss Brown’s behaviour and the computer references are more in the background. Early on there is a newspaper headline about money being wrongly transferred into someone’s account. Both Mel and Anne are computer geeks and of course Miss Brown takes quite an interest in the girls computers skills. Miss Brown seems to have a better plan in place than Mr. King. She has a good cover in pretending to be clueless about computers, and has already got Mel set up to be the fall girl. When the girls start investigating her, she is quick to come up with the story of being an undercover police woman.
Meanwhile Help… jumps straight into the mystery with Leon missing and Kim and Rick having to try and track down the disks with his message. Unlike Miss Brown, he has no pretence of being nice, Mr King’s nickname is Cannibal King and he looks very shady from the start. I’m not sure what his plan with Leon was after he got the bank code, presumably he would have him killed as he could identify him, or maybe once he had the money he figured he could skip the country, still it’s not as neat as Miss Brown’s plan.
In Millpark, I like Anne’s attempt to connect with Mel over their common interest, even after the girls think Miss Brown is investigating her. She thinks someone that likes computers can’t be all bad! The girl’s are all very active in trying to discover what is Miss Brown’s story. Meanwhile Kim’s motives for trying to track down the disks are a bit more blurry. Understandably she’s a bit cautious about wanting to find the hospital disks as she doesn’t want to get into trouble. But a lot of her motive seems to be about Rick rather than helping Leon. She is worried that Rick is only using her to help find his brother and that he doesn’t really like her as a girlfriend. Once she reads his notepad she is happy to go to the hospital. It seems a bit self centred, shouldn’t she want to help someone who’s been kidnapped regardless of Rick’s feelings for her!
I suppose it is a typical teenage reaction (although it is under unusual circumstances). Another teenage response from Kim is she doesn’t tell her parents about the disks so when she gets caught sneaking around the hospital of course she gets in trouble. It’s funny that once the truth comes out, the mother is like if she told her the story from the beginning then she would have gone and gotten the hospital disk for Kim herself! Maybe she should have given her parents more credit!
Both stories are nice little mystery/ adventure stories. The art is fine in both, but I do like Feito’s extra work put into the backgrounds. Of the two stories, I think, Miss Brown makes the better more craftier antagonist. As for the protagonists I think the Millpark girls also win due to Kim being more concerned about her potential romance than Leon. That said I do like Rick, he obviously feels guilty about being jealous and not supportive of his brother. It’s nice that they have a good talk (although it’s off-panel) after Leon is rescued. I also liked the plot of them trying to track down the disks. The story does play up the romance angle, which isn’t bad, it just sometimes makes Kim look like she should get some priorities straight. I prefer the ending of Help… with her and Rick together rather than Millpark’s oddly anti-computer message.
3 thoughts on “The Millpark Mystery! \ Help….”
The Millpark artist is Carlos Freixas.
M&J had a story about an evil computer game. It was called Gameplay and was drawn by the Junior Nanny artist. It spawned a sequel, Gameplay Level 2, drawn by another artist.
I’m afraid the plots of both stories aren’t very clear. The villains are for some reason using school children to hack bank systems. In the first one is the girl being led to believe it’s a game, or is she a willing participant? And the fake teacher is pretending to be a teacher why?
And in the second the child has been kidnapped but has somehow managed to put a message onto some disks that are being delivered to the school, but not enough information on any one disk to actually rescue him or stop the thieves?
And he hasn’t just written a text file, but made a program that self-loads and runs when you insert the disk?
Is this actual computer science or Hollywood computer science?
I would say its Hollywood science! In Millpark Mel thinks she is just playing a game, and Miss Brown is setting her up to take the fall.
In the Help… its very vague on how Leon managed to get the message on the disks. The message is the same on each disk, but it comes up one screen at a time so basically it says “Help my name is Leon I am being held prisoner” please press enter to continue. Kim and Rick keep getting interrupted before reading the rest of the message. Perhaps Leon should have made the writing smaller and he could have fit the entire message in one go!
But I suppose this is all to keep the plot going, if characters actually gave thought to their actions the story would finish very quick! For example if Kim had actually continued to read the entire message in the first place instead of running out to get Rick, then Mr King wouldn’t have deleted it and Leon would be home by page 10!