Enter the Nyctalope came out in France in the second decade of the twentieth century, in a time period still heavily influenced by the work of Jules Verne. The story falls somewhere between the Victorian and pulp writing traditions with a very heavy prose style typical of translated French literature. (If you found novels like The Hunchback of Notre Dame or Three Musketeers plodding, you will probably find much the same in this novel, albeit in much shorter form.)
Our lead Leo Saint-Clair has a bullet graze and damage his eyes and in the process gain the ability to see in the dark, hence the name “Nyctalope”, a term for night blindness. Yes, the character is actually rather misnamed, with Ncytalopia being substituted for the proper term “Scotopia”. Along with his new eyes, Leo also gets a new artificial heart.
These abilities surely come in handy in later adventures, but this book, released eleventh in the series, gives little reason for their use. Instead the story uses something of a Doc Savage and his companions set up as they seek to bring down a Communist criminal group. Indeed, we’re given much to look forward to with the nature of the Nyctalope, but little payoff in this origin tale.
The talented writer Brian Stableford does his best with the adaptation; it just feels like there isn’t enough for him to adapt here.
Three back-up stories all follow, and all take the French Wold Newton concept of editor Jean-Marc Lofficier in to practice. Finally a text piece continues the analysis of the character past the previous entry in the Shadowmen collection.
I’m still quite curious about the Nyctalope and several other members of the French Wold Newton set, but at this time only one other novel in the series is available stateside: The Nyctalope on Mars, the character’s first adventure.
For anyone else interested in early superhero concepts and pulp trivia, Enter the Nyctalope comes heavily recommended. For casual fans, it’s probably best to skip it.