Updated: Jan 3
"He turned his stare towards me, and he led me away to the palace of Irkalla, the Queen of Darkness, to the house from which none who enters ever returns, down the road from which there is... no coming back." - The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Epics of Enkidu is the story of a modern day man with Autism who is actually the rebirth of one of the oldest literary characters in the history of the world. He just doesn't know it yet.
When I was approached to write a review of the Epics of Enkidu, it was from the perspective of the father of an autistic son. My son is 4-years old and was diagnosed about 2-3 years ago. So I was asked to look at this first issue and how it represents someone who lives with Autism and how it is represented in the book. Prior to The Infinity Bros asking me to write this, I had not heard of The Epics of Enkidu so I was going into this blind.
The first thing that I want to make everyone aware of is that no two people with Autism are the same. Just because someone with Autism behaves in a certain way doesn't mean that another person with Autism will behave in that same manner. It is a complex condition, and I commend Ahmed Ameen and Moacir Muniz for attempting to translate this condition into a medium to help raise awareness.
I think the visual representation and dialogue of the Enkidu does a good job of portraying someone with Autism going about their day. Enkidu doesn't really make eye contact with people he meets such as a woman passing him on the train, or a man who accosts him later in the issue. This is a trait a lot of Autistic people exemplify. Also when a train tannoy informs that they have arrived at a station, the voice says "thank you" and Enkidu says "you're welcome", even though it's a voice over a speaker. This is something I have seen in my son, that therapies help with social interaction and it is likely engrained in him when you hear "thank you" that you say "you're welcome" as a response. We also see a few other traits such as light sensitivity, and that apart from a few phrases that Enkidu is mostly non-verbal.
I'm sad to say that Akeem and Muniz also capture the response of the world around Enkidu to his 'strange' behaviors. The woman on the train responds by calling him weird and his antagonist he is harrassed by in this issue thinks he is an idiot and calls him 'retarded' due to his behavior. This is something that unfortunately does happen to those with Autism and as much as I hate seeing it, it was captured very well.
One of my dislikes in this issue though is our unnamed narrator of what we are seeing. The Narrator does elude to Enkidu's backstory and how he was raised without giving a lot away, but I felt more confused about the background he was trying to allude to than intrigued by the mystery of our protagonist. I was also not a fan of the narrators description of Autism to the the reader. He states, "It's a term you use to describe people you don't understand or sometimes people you can't keep up with." Then he alludes to the reason we have some modern day necessities is due to people with Autism, as well as having a little 'Autism' is a benefit and "too much is a disadvantage." I feel like this really gives a false perspective of Autism. An often used phrase that I cannot stand is that 'Everyone is a little bit autistic', which is simply not true but I feel like this wording by the narrator is stating just this while saying anyone acting weird is actually someone with Autism.
The narrator doesn't appear to be Enkidu himself, and I can't help feeling that this is a valuable missed opportunity to contrast his behavior and lack of dialogue with what's taking place in his mind and how he sees the world more. We get a hint on how he sees things but very briefly. This would have been fun to read, especially during the fight scene in the issue.
I do also have to mention the historical perspective on this book. Something I did not realize at first until I watched videos of Ahmed Ameen describing his creation. You can find these videos on his YouTube channel here:
Enkidu is a character in "The Epics of Gilgamesh", the earliest surviving piece of notable literature. Enkidu is a wild man created by the gods to stop Gilgamesh, but instead they become friends. I find it very intriguing that Enkidu was a character different from the norms of society, and he takes the ancient texts usage of a wild man and translates that into someone with Autism, a person who sees the world differently and functions very different from societal norms.
Overall, issue 1 succeeded in its job of intriguing me to check out issue 2 and see where the story goes from here. Although I was unsure of some of the representation, I believe that Ameen has done an amazing job representing Autism overall and cannot thank him enough for helping raise awareness. I am excited to see more of how these characters from ancient Mesopotamian poetry are translated into the modern day world and where the path may go from here.
I would rank 'The Epics of Enkidu' Issue 1 as a 4 out of 6 Infinity Stones. There were some things that took me out of the story, but this is a very strong first issue which I can only imagine would get stronger with well written follow up issues. Cannot wait to see what's next.
The Epics of Enkidu issue 1 features a hero with Autism in what could be the sequel to the oldest story found in human history. And is available now on Amazon;
Cross is a father of three, with one being Autistic. He is also a good friend of the Infinity Bros as a straight up nerd and avid reader of comics. You can find him on his own podcast on Twitch, Comics and the Cross.