Ever wish that Marvel Comics were firmly in continuity but were also stand-alone and accessible to new readers? Sure it’s contradictory, but that’s just how Marvel’s describing their new “Astonishing” line, which will feature two new titles: Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine by Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert and Astonishing X-Men by Warren Ellis and Kaare Andrews.
So, what sets the Astonishing line apart from regular comics? I’m not sure. The Marvel.com story describes the line as “set firmly in the Marvel Universe and providing the perfect starting point for all readers, new or old, these books will tell the most epic stories of heroic action set against the back drop of the real world.” As best as I can tell from that, the line will be featuring stories that, while not contradicting continuity, won’t be so dependent on it that new readers won’t understand it. Sounds good if you can pull it off.
All of this also begs the question: Does two comics equal a line? Well, Marvel’s saying this approach will eventually encompass all of the Marvel Universe, so this is more of a general shift in how Marvel approaches storylines. (Getting new readers is a huge concern, of course.)