By Chaz Lipp

We don’t normally focus on books here at Cinema Lowdown, but these new Batman coffee tables books from Insight Editions both tie in directly with Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, including the new The Dark Knight Rises. I recently covered these well-produced, hardcover titles over at The Morton Report. But they’re just too cool to not share with our readers here, too. You can read my full review of The Dark Knight Manual (by Brandon T. Snider) and Batmobile: The CompleteHistory (by Mark Cotta Vaz) on TMR. 
The Dark Knight Manual is a great companion to Nolan’s trilogy. The book was designed (by Jon Glick) to resemble Bruce Wayne’s overstuffed case file, containing all sorts of cool inserts and multi-layered collages. It really has to be seen to be fully appreciated, but it treats Nolan’s Batman universe and a real-life environment from the perspective of Bruce Wayne. Inside the book are file folders with criminal profiles of the Joker, Harvey Dent, Bane, and others. Little surprises await around each corner, such as “evidence” including Joker’s player cards (one of the removable elements). There are blueprints for the Batcave, a set of translucent overlays that show each layer of the Batsuit, and a huge map of Gotham, just to name a few.

Most of the inserts are not removable, which is for the best because they would be easy to lose. You’ll see “handwritten” Post-It notes from Lucious Fox, conceptual sketches, and even a police report on the murder of Wayne’s parents. There is a variety of paper stocks used to make the assortment more realistic. Thankfully, Insight Editions shrink-wraps the book to add a layer of protection, since the thinner pages and inserts could potentially be bent or damaged otherwise. As I stated in my Morton Report review, the book isn’t completely without format problems. In my copy, a decal sheet was stuck to the page next to it, damaging the picture when I carefully peeled it away. In another section, a sticker sheet was also stuck to the next page, luckily not affecting only black space in that case. By no means is this is a slam against the otherwise superbly designed book, just something to keep in mind.
Mark Cotta Vaz’s Batmobile: The Complete History is a straight-forward hardcover coffee table volume, loaded with historical details of Batman’s famous vehicle. This is the best of both worlds – intelligent, well-researched text and TONS of cool photos. The book starts out way back in 1939, with Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s original creation in the earliest Batman comic books. It moves on chronologically, from the ‘60s TV series, to Tim Burton’s 1989 classic Batmanand its still-underrated ‘92 sequel Batman Returns, to the much-maligned Joel Schumacher installments, and right up to Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Batman fans will love the level of detail, as well as Vaz’s focused writing.
Both of these books are perfect for embracing your inner geek. I can honestly say, The Dark Knight Manual – while appropriate for all ages – is not a kiddie book. In fact, author Brandon T. Snider already covered that demographic earlier this year with The Dark Knight Rises: The Secret Files Scrapbook. So while not exactly a scholarly examination of Bruce Wayne’s world, the Manual is a fun way for adult as well as younger Batman fans to immerse themselves in Nolan’s environment.
For more on The Dark Knight Manual or Batmobile: The Complete History, head over to Insight Editions’ official website.
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Chaz Lipp

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