Reviews

The Ikea Effect of Ultraman: "Aquaman #27"

Getting back to it…? Or moving forward? Incoming regular writer Jeff Parker brings an incredible intellectual sophistication to Aquaman.


Aquaman #27

Publisher: DC
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Jeff Parker, Paul Pelletier
Price: $2.99
Release Date: 2014-04
Amazon

Here's a simple framing device:

Mike K. in the morning, long before coffee, looks as bright and as fresh as anything that you can imagine and with a cavalier Mike K. tilting-at-the-world kind of grin, he plows straight into why he likes Ikea. He attacks the problem of making the argument for Ikea head on with wit and charm and an intellectual sophistication that your Mom always tried to instill in you.

Not a conversation for me though. I like coffee, and in this unholy composite of a moment that is both predawn and post-game, I'd rather it were waves of coffee hitting me than waves of Mike K.'s analysis of Ikea.

The beauty of Ikea, Mike holds, lies in their evolving an entirely new design ethic, to answer a problem of logistics. As a small company in the middle late 20th century, how does Ikea reduce shipping costs? They disassemble their products and ship the cost of installation, along with the parts, to the consumer. "It's beautiful in it's simplicity," Mike enthuses.

But so what? And far more importantly, where's my coffee?

The story of corporate folklore seems always to lead make to the stylings of Malcolm Gladwell--the epimyth being that something we never heard about happened at some point, and consequently all our lives were changed in a radical albeit invisible way. The far more interesting part of that cultural equation, is usually the latter. The former, the Gladwellism of how things came to be, is interesting in itself, but hits a terminal point. And that terminal point is always the same. "And then this happened…" (which is not that different in its logic from the Jim Jefferies joke on his I Swear to God where he jokes about people who don't drink.)

The latter part though, the latter part is the more interesting. It's that latter part that wrestles with the issue of consequence. Because this happened, what changed as a result? I want a writer of the skill and the insight and the compassion of Malcolm Gladwell to guide me down those narrow alleyways of consequence that reach from the present all the way through to the unpredictable future. But more often than not, it's a journalist who conducts me on that voyage. And in this Ikea instance specifically, it's behavioral economist Dan Ariely. (Check out the embedded YouTube.)

Ariely maps out the Ikea effect, which is a sociocultural scansion of the change that the decision to ship semi-assembled products has stimulated. Ariely suggests the Ikea effect as an increase in complexity of language of the instructions ultimately renders as an increase in love we demonstrate once we've executed those instructions (think of it as a kind of architectural Stockholm Syndrome).

So here we are, caught between where's the most love? An a priori rendering in the Malcolm Gladwell style of how something that happened came to be, or an a posteriori account of how "things-will-be-worse-now" (to quote from Mike Mignola's Hellboy: the Third Wish), how things have changed as a result.

Whose will be done?

Without coffee, we'll never know. I'll never be heard, but even if I had that opportunity to speak, I wouldn't exactly want to anyway. Better by far to sublimate into a passive-aggressive rant about a priori versus a posteriori as a launchpad for discussing Jeff Parker's taking the reins of Aquaman as series regular writer.

The point behind all of this however, is that "Life & Death," Parker's first issue as series regular, is wrestling with exactly that debate of a priori versus a posteriori at an incredibly sophisticated level.

At once, Parker shows Aquaman wrestling with his multiethnic past as a scion of both the human and Atlantean worlds. His memories of his father linger, his memories of his father haunt… Paul Pelletier's artwork sets a mood that can only be compared with evocative French art cinema. But at the same time, Parker and Pelletier throw us headlong into the scifi psychopomp that is giant-monster-bashing tokusatsu.

The plot is simple and it is the same one from any episode of Ultraman: Moebius--giant monster attacks, hero saves the day. But what if the giant monster, in this case, the Karaqan, is a holy defender of Atlantis? And what if slaying the monster (which does in its death throes threaten to wipe out some large part of human civilization) only means more hardship for Aquaman as Atlantis's unsure, but multiethnic king? It's a hint at far greater things to come.

Aquaman #27 is worth reading, worth owning. Wrestle it down and it will keep rewarding you.

9

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Alt-rock heroes the Foo Fighters deliver a three-hour blast of rock power that defies modern norms.

It's a Saturday night in Sacramento and the downtown area around the swank new Golden 1 Center is buzzing as if people are waiting for a spaceship to appear because the alt-rock heroes known as the Foo Fighters are in town. Dave Grohl and his band of merry mates have carried the torch for 20th-century rock 'n' roll here in the next millennium like few others, consistently cranking out one great guitar-driven album after another while building a cross-generational appeal that enables them to keep selling out arenas across America.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image