Summer Book Club Review: Batman: Arkham Universe: The Ultimate Visual Guide

Welcome to VGBlogger’s Summer Book Club! All summer long, we will be providing weekly book reviews across a wide range of geek favorite categories, including art, comics/graphic novels, fantasy, gaming, and sci-fi. So whether you’re heading out for a road trip, going on vacation, lounging beach/poolside on a nice sunny day, relaxing inside away from the summer heat, or simply searching for a good read to fill your free time, follow our Summer Book Club for our top picks of what you should be reading during these hot summertime doldrums.

BatmanArkhamUniverse_UltimateVisualGuide

If there’s been another game this year with more cross-media tie-ins than Batman: Arkham Knight, I certainly haven’t seen it. Already there have been two novel adaptations, an art book, and a comic series. Now, from the visual guide specialists at DK, comes The Ultimate Visual Guide to The Dark Knight’s video game franchise.

The visual guide to the Batman: Arkham universe is not a traditional art book with game design concepts and developer commentary showing how the games were made, but rather a compendium of canonical information about the complete Arkham series. In other words, try to think of it as a fancy CliffsNotes picture book, condensing all of the characters, environments, and storylines of the Arkhamverse into 200 pages sandwiched between hardcovers. And by Arkhamverse I mean the whole series–not just the games made by Rocksteady like the art book we previously reviewed–as the book covers the happenings of Asylum, City, Knight, Origins, and even Origins Blackgate.

After a foreword by the voice of Batman himself, Kevin Conroy, the book wastes no time diving into the thick of things with a six-page timeline recapping the major events of all five games, beginning with the bounty placed on Batman’s head by Black Mask early in the Caped Crusader’s career through to Scarecrow’s assault on Gotham City and the rise of the Arkham Knight.

From there the guide divides up into chapters covering Batman, his allies, and the complete rogues’ gallery of Gotham’s villains. Each character profile consists of a two-page spread featuring backstory details describing the subject’s role throughout the series, a basic biographic data file with information such as real name, occupation, height, weight, and eye and hair color, a famous one-liner quote, and a mix of screenshots and promo art to provide visual reference to what’s being outlined in the text. For characters who have appeared in multiple games, the guide appropriately uses imagery from each appearance so you can see how the character and costume designs evolved as the Arkham series (and technology) progressed.

Naturally, Batman gets way more page time than any other single character. His dedicated chapter spans 60 pages and includes individual highlights of the Batmobile and Batwing, his extensive arsenal of gadgets, the Batcave, and Wayne Manor. A full eight pages is even spent showing off what has to be every Batsuit the Dark Knight has ever worn. That’s definitely one of the coolest sections of the entire book.

Just like The Art of Rocksteady’s Batman, this book’s only low point is its incomplete coverage of the events from Arkham Knight. In certain circumstances avoiding spoilers makes sense, but in this case, for something described as being “The Ultimate Visual Guide,” it goes against the whole purpose of the guide. How can this be an ultimate guide to the Arkham universe when it fails to recognize the Arkham Knight’s true identity and condenses profiles for most wanted side story villains like Man-Bat, Deacon Blackfire, and Hush into single-paragraph capsules rather than full bio spreads like all the other bad guys? I seriously doubt there are a lot of people who will be interested in this book without being a fan of the series and already having a working knowledge of all the major plot points, so omitting such pivotal information is a definite disappointment.

So no, Batman: Arkham Universe: The Ultimate Visual Guide does not quite live up to its title. However, even though it skimps on certain critical Arkham Knight details, the book as a whole is still fun to read through and easy to recommend as a collectible companion to the video game Arkhamverse. By focusing on the individual stories and motivations of each character, the guide is able to summarize the series’ overarching narrative in a way that is clear, easily digestible, visually compelling, and thorough (well, thorough enough) without necessarily going into encyclopedic depth.

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Disclosure: A copy of Batman: Arkham Universe: The Ultimate Visual Guide was given to VGBlogger.com for review by DK Publishing.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!