In the pursuit of truth, our heroine comes up against the requisite gangsters, thugs and hired killers. In one of the more memorable moments from the book (resurrected and reworked from the original graphic novel), Ms. Tree chases down a hypodermic wielding hitwoman and winds up plunges the needle into her leg, threatening to use it to subdue her. A suitably tough moment for our hard-bitten protagonist.
That said, Collins’ pulp debut for his groundbreaking comic book detective doesn’t prove to be as Hard Case edgy as many of the better entries in this paperback line. You keep waiting for Collins to get meaner in the manner of his idol Spillane, but it never happens. Some of the sequences just sit there — like a confrontation between Ms. Tree and the daughter of a Chi-Town mobster — without leading to an ultimate pay-off. Perhaps Collins was saving it for a second book, but to the best of my knowledge, no follow-up to Deadly Beloved has been written.
Though the writer discusses repackaging the original comics from where the character originally sprung, at this writing the only collections of the graphic novel sources for Deadly Beloved remain out of print. That’s too bad: though the original early tales have their clunky moments — the work of two Midwestern mystery fanboys still finding their way in the comic book format — they hold up as precursors to contemporary noir crime comics. Certainly better than this retelling, which efficiently reconstructs the action but never fully recreates its heroine’s pissed-off voice.