7 of 9
By Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières
160 pages; Cinebook

For his film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, opening July 21, French science-fiction director Luc Besson has created a space opera for the 21st century, with a boy-and-girl interstellar agent team, plus some added star wattage from Clive Owen and Rihanna. The source for the film's dazzling CGI action, though, is a more modest graphic novel series that actually anticipated Star Wars. Writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières invented Valerian and his sidekick, Laureline, in 1967, and their stories have stayed remarkably timely over nearly 50 years, tackling climate change, war, cultural differences and gender divides (Laureline is Valerian's intellectual equal, though she has a hard time getting credit for it). The series combines the pleasures of a Tintin book with the extra benefit of (still) being on top of the news.