Charm School, the episode’s title, can be considered as a one-shot from the Amazing X-Men‘s series. The story is not included in a story arc nor fixed in a precise temporality. It follow the catastrophic love interest of Victor Borkowski, aka Anole, a student at the Jean Grey School. Far away from the battle scenes we saw during World War Wendigo (Amazing X-Men #8-12), the prime interest of the artistic team, James Tynion IV (author) and Jorge Jimenez (artist) is to depict the social interactions between people, and particularly the amorous interactions.
Homosexuality is the main topic of the episode, with two of his main characters gay : Anole and Northstar. Northstar is the first gay mutant superhero to ever get married with an other man, Kyle Jinadu (Astonishing X-Men #51, June 2012). Homosexuality and mutankind are two sides of one only battle : the acceptance of differences.
Anole is a great choice as a flag character to defend this cause. Gay and mutant, he’s the perfect candidate for both those minorities. Because of his visible mutation, he constitute an easy prey for Martinique Wyngarde’s shenanigans. Anole has a delicate and smooth face, almost feminine, far away from his monstrous right arm, sharp and massive. His pouting face looks even more feminine than Martinique’s, stretched in a sadistic smile.
The faces are an important element of Jorge Jimenez‘ style. Nightcrawler’s face is more diabolical than ever, for example on the first panel of this page. Maybe this new aspect of Nightcrawler’s personality is a consequence of AXIS, after which this episode of Amazing X-Men could take place. About Northstar, I’m glad that Jorge Jimenez respected his pointy ears, a sign of his mutation. This page is extremely dense, with both drawings and texts. Only two characters are involve, which we see only their face or their upper body.
Jorge Jimenez‘ bodies are slender and narrow-shouldered. This is particularly visible on the seventh page, on which Anole is mobbed by an – phantom – army of Noam. Noam, the young boy with whom Anole should have had a date in the beginning of the episode, is multiplied and attacks the mutant. Their appearance is opposite to one another : Anole is green, sharp and edgy, whereas Noam is blond, thin and slender. This contrast allows us to understand the doubts Anole could have had about the possibility that Noam could ever like him. The use of unrealistic colors, the elastic body of Noam and the layout of the four bottom panels are clues indicate that Anole is under a psychic attack.
But the cruelty of Martinique Wingarde reached it peak when she inverts Noam’s and Anole’s bodies, giving the last one an human-like look. The young mutant sees himself as a human, not a mutant anymore, and let himself be kissed by this new appealing appearance. The central panel makes me think about the story the Beauty and the Beast. The prince-like Anole is ready to kiss his boyfriend, but he’s a prince only on the outside. His inside is rotten like a monster’s. This kissing scene is nothing but a torture, far from being a happy ending.
Because Anole is so insecure about his own body, Martinique was able to torture him so easily. The fears of each of the three heroes – Nightcrawler, Northstar and Anole – are deeply anchored in their own past and history. Anole, the only student among those victims, might be understood as a fusion of Nightcrawler – like him his mutation is extremely visible – and Northstar – both being gay. His burden is twice as heavy as the burden Nightcrawler and Northstar must carry every day, so his victory is twice as glorious.
This independent episode is simply wonderful, as much by his scenario as his drawings. James Tynion IV and Jorge Jimenez, comparing the homosexuality and the mutation, tell us a story about the fights for acceptance we must continue to contend. The last scene is a hopeful note, depicting two clasped hands, one pink and human, one green and mutant.