I can't remember the last time a manga had me gripped into its story right at the first page. Dr. STONE, the latest series from Eyeshield 21 creator Riichiro Inagaki, isn't like anything that I've come across in recent memory. From the get-go, it drags you into one insane what-if scenario, before dropping you into a world where nature overtakes everything and humanity ceases to be. That is, until a genius student and his oaf pal wake up from their plastered prisons!

The entire world is encompassed into stone. Humans and even many creatures are trapped within a frozen prison. A bad luck scenario for Taiju, who was in the midst of confessing his love to fellow student Yuzuriha as this chaotic situation unfolded. Waking up from his rock prison, Taiju discovers his incredibly smart friend Senku is also up and at 'em, leading to the two of them to seek a cure to bring humanity back from their gravel nap. And thus, the world of Dr. STONE brings about the tale of saving what's left of the homo sapiens, specifically those who are still fully intact in their current state.

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DR. STONE © 2017 by Riichiro Inagaki, Boichi/SHUEISHA Inc.

With Senku's science knowhow and Taiju's strength and heart, the two spend much time looking for the proper ingredients to bring back everyone, with Yuzuriha on the top of their list to save first. Making large leaps, diving into deep caves, and seeking nourishment in the darkest woods, the two pals use both their various strengths to seek a means to survive what has become one wild world. Of course, despite good intentions from them both, a darker side lurks in one of their fellow rescued classmates, a Tarzan-built muscle man named Tsukasa. When the two and the awaken Yuzuriha find out his true motives to rebuilding society, it's a race against time to recreate the world for everyone, including those who aren't exactly perfect examples of humanity.

It's amazing to see Inagaki shove so much story into one volume without it feeling too overwhelming. In just one chapter, he builds a maddening situation, crafts the manga's main purpose, and sets his sights on showcasing the flaws of humanity even when said humanity is nearly non-existent. What's more, he does this while establishing these characters and their strengths, weaknesses, & mentalities. All of this is accomplished without Dr. STONE needing to dumb down its situations or even talk down to its audience.

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DR. STONE © 2017 by Riichiro Inagaki, Boichi/SHUEISHA Inc.

Illustrator Boichi manages to capture this manga's people and places with a unique and expressive art style. The Korean-born artist has given us characters that look both unique and nostalgic, like a mixture of Todd McFarlane (Spawn), Yoshihiro Togashi (Yu Yu Hakusho), and Kazuhiro Fujita (Ushio & Tora) wrapped in a tasty concoction. Its worlds are presented with incredible beauty, being somewhat reminiscent of the truly underrated video game Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. When the action picks up, seeing both Taiju and Tsukasa taking on the animal kingdom's greatest beasts are nothing short of exciting and heart-pounding.

Of course, even the most dire of situations needs a little comedy to keep things sane. Taiju's lack of science knowledge can be a pretty good punchline after one of Senku's explanations, even when the class genius tries to be as blunt as possible. (The one-offs with the characters at the end of each chapter add a hearty laugh to the story, even if it's immediately after a dire situation unfolding.) However, it's the physical humor that shines the brightest throughout DR. STONE's silliest moments, especially when Taiju pokes Senku's eyes out solely because the still-frozen-in-time Yuzuriha isn't clothed enough to be revived just yet. Senku's facial expressions alone will have you laughing your butt off for minutes on end, with the very best showcased immediately following a classic "Why would you do that?!" sort of moment.

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DR. STONE © 2017 by Riichiro Inagaki, Boichi/SHUEISHA Inc.

Dr. STONE is one hell of a page-turner, through & through. With its original story, beautiful visuals from Boichi, and great blend of action, science & humor, Inagaki's latest tale is one of this year's most exciting manga to come out west this year. Believe me when I say that you will not read anything that will make your eyes pop out or jaws drop quite like Dr. STONE, as it's simply one of the smartest and kickass series to arrive on these shores in quite some time.

FINAL GRADE:

Promotional consideration provided by Erik Jansen of MediaLab PR. Available in stores September 4th!

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