House of X and Powers of X have finished, setting the stage for the future of the X-Men. The two books have reintroduced scores of characters and new concepts, all of which could become relevant at any point as the overarching narrative they kicked off continues in the new main series.
With each of those elements about to spin-off into their own multiple series, is it enough for new or lapsed readers to just read House of X and Powers of X? Or should you be well-versed in X-Men before you tackle the newest approach to Marvel's merry mutants?
House of X and Powers of X radically alter the landscape of the X-Men's corner of the Marvel Universe. The miniseries revealed that a secret alliance had been operating in the past for decades thanks to a character revealed to have secretly been a Mutant this whole time. All of this leads to a new home for the assembled mutants, a new idea for a government to watch over them, and a new mission statement for classic teams to reassemble over. There are even graphs and charts in every issue, helping lay out some of the more complex ideas and aspects.
From a certain perspective, it's kind of the perfect introduction to this new direction. It's such an effective deviation from earlier stories in terms of the mission statement that it stands as it's own version of the X-Men. The story makes quick mentions to the past throughout both the twinned miniseries, but all the characters are largely introduced in action and with enough character to get across who they are, even to people who have no idea who, say, Doug Ramsey is.
Beyond a baseline understanding of the universe and the characters, it's easy to infer what's happening as the conspiracy is formed in secret. They're also both well-constructed by writer Jonathan Hickman and his assembled art teams, making it easier to pick up on new elements introduced throughout even for the uninitiated.
DOES IT ALL MAKE SENSE?
That being said, there is a lot of X-Men history and lore that is referenced, albeit sometimes subtly and sometimes more overtly. Hickman adds his own touches that drive most of the story, which makes it enjoyable on its own. But there's a certain thrill and inherent understanding that comes with characters like Apocalypse, Exodus and Proteus when they appear for long-time fans.
All of them are villains from across the history of X-Men comics, and each of them have a minor (but important) role to fill in the stories. The books understandably don't focus primarily on them, leaving newer readers without the full context of what their presence means. While their personalities are easy to determine from the solid character work, their importance is only really evident to people who already know about them.
Not helping matters is the truly massive cast that's being introduced for this new direction. The events of the two miniseries leave the mutant community feeling larger than ever. This means, going forward, each of the numerous spinoff books will be able to feature a wealth of characters and build off of many freshly established relationships, all of which will land more effectively if you have knowledge of the past between them.
It may be too many to get used to all at once, so having at least some background knowledge on the various characters and teams will help clear up any questions.
THE SCI-FI QUESTION
The best example of this dichotomy can be found in one of the most unique aspects of the Hickman approach to the Marvel Universe: the massive amount of hard science fiction he brings to the table. Much like his Fantastic Four and Avengers runs, Hickman incorporates a good deal of new ideas into the area of the universe he's playing with. This includes introducing new takes on Nimrod and the Phalanx, two classic technological villains to the X-Men who receive an entirely new level of nuance under Hickman. They feel as if they're original characters and incarnations of an idea, which allows them to stand on their own for new readers without much necessary baggage beyond "super robot." Even if you don't know who Nimrod is, you can understand what this version is and what it wants.
Both mechanical forces are introduced as their own characters or forces with an implicit connection to a classic X-Men concept. They're explained, and play straight-forward roles in the narrative. Of course, to truly understand the full implications of certain beats, it certainly helps to have a working knowledge of X-Men history. But the strength of the craft on display with these titles make it all perfectly possible to understand, even for new readers who lack the full awareness of long-term X-Men fans, or those who've not been keeping up for a while.