Promo art for Astonishing X-Men by Kaare Andrews
Marvel Comics announced on its website today that they would be "expanding" their Astonishing line of comics (which currently consists of Astonishing X-Men alone, and has never before been referred to as a line or imprint) by relaunching Astonishing X-Men with a brand new issue #1, written by Warren Ellis with art by Kaare Andrews, and debuting Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine, written by Jason Aaron with art from Adam Kubert. The announcement described what, exactly, the Astonishing imprint would be:
Here's how Astonishing works: 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. New readers will be able to jump right into these epic adventures, while die-hard Marvel fans will also find exciting insights and dramatic changes for Marvel's most prestigious characters.
It's clear that Marvel is trying to replicate the success Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's run on Astonishing X-Men, but it seems that they may be going about it the wrong way. Whedon and Cassaday's "continuity light" approach to their run was a significant part of its success, making it accessible to new and casual readers but still "important" to Wednesday faithfuls. An equally important part of that equation, however, was the accessibility of Whedon's writing style and Cassaday's art. Whedon's ability to make characters - even decades old characters with which readers have no previous familiarity - relatable on a very emotional level was a big part of what brought new readers to the series and kept them there, and Cassaday's beautiful but fairly simple art style was welcoming to readers who had no previous history with the medium. Is the hard science fiction of Warren Ellis and the hard-boiled style of Jason Aaron, as talented as those writers are, really the right choices to try to replace and replicate that? Not to mention Kaare Andrews "stylized" artwork (and by the stylized I mean why in the world does Storm look like a supermodel with an eating disorder?).
It's not hard to believe that, in the right hands (Brian K. Vaughan? Gail Simone?), titles like Astonishing X-Men and Astonishing Spider-Man, and even Astonishing Wolverine (though I have no idea why they chose to combine those last two), could find a broad new audience, but so far it looks like Marvel is only poised to dilute the prestige of the Astonishing title, not elevate it.